Minecraft’s New Oregon Trail Experience Has Everything—Even the Dysentery

Game-Based Learning

Minecraft’s New Oregon Trail Experience Has Everything—Even the Dysentery

By Stephen Noonoo     Sep 18, 2017

Minecraft’s New Oregon Trail Experience Has Everything—Even the Dysentery

Remember the Oregon Trail? Of course you do, it’s the game the internet won’t let you forget.

Thirty-two years after the first full-color graphic version hit the Apple II, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—the current owner of the Oregon Trail franchise—is teaming up with Microsoft on a new world that ports many of the landmarks and features of the original game into Minecraft.

Announced this morning in a Microsoft blog post, the new world, called The Oregon Trail Experience, is exclusive to Minecraft: Education Edition, the version that replaced the popular MinecraftEdu late last year. Microsoft acquired Minecraft from Swedish game developer Mojang in 2014.

Baked into the new world are 15 landmarks, each with a corresponding real-life lesson plan that might incorporate English language arts, math, science or visual arts topics. Activities might take students out of the game and experiment with concepts like raft buoyancy (to ford those treacherous rivers) or the carbonation process that helped create Soda Springs. Other lessons have students making a road trip playlist and live tweeting as a historical trail pioneer.

And before you ask: “Yes, all iconic scenes from Oregon Trail are present,” explains Neal Manegold, director of Minecraft Education, in an email to EdSurge. “Every [screenshot here] is a build in the world and a lesson.” Distances may be condensed, but travelers still start from Independence, Missouri, and end up in Oregon City—trekking through Chimney Rock, the Blue Mountains and Fort Walla Walla along the way.

The big difference between this world and the original game is an emphasis on creation and offline research, although students still spend time staving off pitfalls. Players can get the famous dysentery via a potion of poison halfway though the journey, and if teachers up the difficulty level they can die and respawn. "We didn't want to leave that out," Manegold says.

At the end of the trail, students collect all their project notes and progress logs into a travel guide for future Greenhorns.

The open-world sandbox capabilities of Minecraft allow students to carve out their own shortcuts and paths and create their own 19th-century pioneer inspired communities along the virtual trail. Educators can also upload their related lessons to Minecraft Education’s online community.

“We are delighted to partner with Minecraft Education Edition,” says Caroline Fraser, a senior vice president at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in a statement from the blog. “Through the unique magic of Minecraft, kids will be drawn to discover the wonders and challenges that pioneers encountered on this famous journey.”

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