Sonoma County Office of Education

Technology for Learners

Minecraft: A New Twist on California Mission Projects

Author: Rick Phelan
Published: 04.20.15

If you attended a California public school for fourth grade, you probably have memories of constructing a replica of a California mission. Fourth-graders have long studied the 600-mile California Mission Trail, which connects California’s 21 missions—from Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. A common fourth-grade assignment is to construct a model of one of the missions using cardboard, sugar cubes, balsa wood, or styrofoam.

Recently, Prestwood Elementary School student Eli Lawrence was given a list of options for his mission project by teachers Suzanne Heisser and Juanita Miller. Eli chose Option 20, which was “Your own idea!” Eli’s idea was to create a model of Mission San Francisco Solano in the Minecraft computer world.

Minecraft is a video game originally created by programmer Markus Persson and later developed and published by the Swedish company Mojang. The creative and building aspects of Minecraft allow players to develop constructions out of textured cubes in a three-dimensional computer-generated world.

Eli did research on his mission and created a model with both exterior and interior details. Minecraft allowed him to add details that would not have been possible if he used traditional materials. He used a screen recorder program to walk classmates, teachers, and interested others through his computer model and loaded the video on YouTube. Take a tour of Eli’s model of Mission San Francisco Solano below.



See existing MinecraftEdu worlds online
Want other ideas on how Minecraft can be used in education? Check out MinecraftEdu at, then search for MindcraftEdu worlds. Teachers are coming up with many different ways to incorporate this interactive environment for learning across content areas.

Recent Technology for Learning Blog posts on gamification and learning
Minecraft at Cotati Rohnert Park’s Tech Middle School
The Value of Computer Games in Learning

Borrow laptops from SCOE with MinecraftEdu loaded
Sonoma County schools may borrow a set of 10 laptop computers with MinecraftEdu loaded and ready to use for a period of one to two weeks. Contact Rick Phelan at to schedule time for your site to try MinecraftEdu.

Blog: Technology for Learners