New Minecraft Mod shakes up earthquake education

Skeleton horses and killer bunnies may not be traditional learning tools, but a new mod for the computer game Minecraft is using them to teach important lessons about earthquake safety.

We developed the new Minecraft mod called “ShakerMod” with the Earthquake Commission to help kids learn to “Fix, Fasten and Don’t Forget.”

A room with the words 'Fix and fasten arena'

In ShakerMod, kids fix and fasten objects, then simulate earthquakes at different magnitudes. When the quakes are triggered, players see and hear the shaking, and watch as objects smash or survive depending on their earthquake-proofing skills. Players can also see how different Minecraft creatures fare in their quake.

The game can be played at Te Papa as part of its earthquake education programme, Earthquake Encounters, or downloaded to play at home or at school (users need to have a license for the Minecraft game).

Reactions from kids playing the ShakerMod have been really positive with comments like: “it’s just awesome, and “it was really cool how everything not held down fell over and smashed.”

Playing ShakerMod, 2018. Photo by Kate Whitley. Te Papa

Head of Learning Innovation, Miri Young, says “We’ve involved kids during the development of the ShakerMod and their input has been key. Being able to create earthquakes and test out how smash-proof their Fixing and Fastening has been a big hit. They’re having a blast and learning too, which is the ultimate combination.”

“Educating the next generations of New Zealanders around natural disaster awareness and preparedness is a vital step towards a safer and more resilient New Zealand. That’s why our partnership with Te Papa, and the launch of the Earthquake Encounters programme, is so important,” says EQC General Manager Resilience, Dr Hugh Cowan.

“Having ShakerMod available for free download means this fun learning experience will be available to thousands of New Zealanders.”

Miri adds: “People being able to access one of our learning activities in their own home or school, at their leisure, is a great example of how Te Papa is using technology to reach learners beyond the walls of the museum.”

ShakerMod was created by internationally renowned game developers, earthquake experts, and educators and is the culmination of months of development work.

The team included Dr Hazel Bradshaw who has a PhD Human Interface Technology specialising in game design practise; EQC earthquake and resilience experts; and Dunedin brothers Malcolm and Chris Geddes, who created one of the world’s largest Minecraft Mods known as Pixelmon.

The full Earthquake Encounters learning programme for primary school students (years 3-8), is a two-hour educator-led session in and around Te Papa. Students visit exhibitions and outdoor areas to understand how plate tectonics have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand; they go down to our base isolators to see how they protect the nation’s treasures; and visit Hīnātore to use ShakerMod to learn to keep taonga, such as the colossal squid and pygmy blue whale skeleton, safe within the earthquake simulation.

EQC is a founding partner of Te Papa, with 2018 marking the 21st year of the relationship. For the past 12 years EQC and Te Papa have worked together to educate students and teachers about earthquakes and what can be done to prevent and mitigate the damage caused by natural disasters.

The next step in the ongoing Te Papa / EQC partnership is the redevelopment of the Awesome Forces natural history space as part of Te Papa’s renewal of its permanent exhibitions. The new nature zone will feature the return of the revamped earthquake house with a new interactive story about recent seismic shifts in Aotearoa.