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Video game helps students to learn about roads, biodiversity and safety

National Highways is using Minecraft to inspire young people to learn about the range of rewarding careers that connect people around the country

Juliana O'Rourke
21 September 2021


National Highways has enlisted the help of Minecraft, the world’s best-selling video game, to inspire the next generation of talented tech experts, engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

Students across the country can now explore three of National Highways (formerly Highways England) proposed schemes that have been created in the game.

The launch comes in the same month that the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund announced its £150,000 competition – with special prizes for schools – which is also aimed at encouraging students to think about roads and their role in society.  The Fund's Trustees are offering grants and cash prizes of £5,000 for schools to encourage new and creative thinking about what road users of all kinds expect from the roads of the future. 

In the games, students will learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. They will see what it takes to build and maintain a road. And they can learn about protecting and improving biodiversity, conserving heritage for future generations to enjoy, creating new technology to make our roads safer, and operating machines to build one of the world’s largest tunnels. 

The students can also learn about everything road designers have to take into account when they’re planning schemes like the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements and the A303 past Stonehenge.

Through the in-game activities, students will get a sense of the range of skills used by National Highways to build some of the biggest road projects in a generation, including: archaeology, biology, ecology, civil engineering, communications technology and coding.

Five games and a creative mode have been developed, along with lesson plans that teachers can use with their students aged 7-11 (key stage 2) and 11-14 (key stage 3).

Natalie Jones, National Highways Talent Delivery Lead, said: "We want to inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists, on whom the country’s infrastructure and national economy will one day depend. Our ambition is to seek out the next James Dyson or Dame Sarah Gilbert and help put them on the path to a fascinating life and career.

"With the help of Minecraft and the in-game activities, students will get first-hand experience of what would go into building a huge bridge or digging a giant tunnel. In real life these are multi-million pound structures that are carefully designed and then built by experts. These skills and expertise help to create the motorways and main roads that keep us all moving, whether going to work, delivering goods or keeping families and friends connected."

The educational package is aligned to the national curriculum and is available to all teachers and schools, the only requirement is that they have access to Microsoft Education Centre. The five activities include:

Lower Thames Crossing – Tunnel Digging: Students will be using a Minecraft model of the proposed LTC tunnel to learn about tunnelling and excavate and build a portion of the tunnel.

Lower Thames Crossing – Signs game: Using a model of a different section of the planned LTC scheme, students will be using MakeCode to programme road signs to respond to different scenarios, including severe weather and flooding.

A428 Black to Caxton Gibbet improvements – Natural Habitats game: Students will be using a section of the Caxton Gibbet roundabout to create a new stretch of road whilst keeping animal habitats safe. (*Not available at launch)

A303 Stonehenge – Across the Ages: Students will be taken on an historic journey through different time periods with Stonehenge as the backdrop, including; Mesolithic Era, Neolithic Era, Bronze Age, Roman Britain, WW1, present day, and the planned A303 Stonehenge road scheme.

A303 Stonehenge – Biodiversity game: Using a Minecraft model of a green bridge section of the proposed scheme, students will explore the biodiversity of the area by photographing the flora and fauna in the landscape.

Each proposed scheme also has a Creative Mode aimed for use by schools during lunchtime or after school clubs. The creative game will ask a different set of questions, and students can spend as much time as they want building and designing things in relation to the questions.

The Minecraft maps and games were created by Blockbuilders C.I.C, an expert company aimed at engaging young people into planning, the environment and local history using Minecraft.

To discover more about National Highways Minecraft STEM learning package, to receive the educational resource pack or register interest in National Highways holding a Minecraft workshop with the developers at your school, visit the Minecraft STEM learning page.

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