January 18

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Minecraft For Mindfulness

Originally posted as “Mining for Mindfulness: Education Startup Brings the Power of Minecraft to Social Emotional Learning” at PR.com (Image: tecnologia.starmedia.com)

Grokcraft, an education startup, uses Minecraft to help kids engage in playful social-emotional learning (SEL). “We believe that in free play, children & adults can learn mindfulness, empathy & other social skills.” SEL has core competencies children need to master. Staff members will not be doing therapy but partner with schools & agencies if requested to provide children with extracurricular activities to foster SEL. “We’re hoping people have so much fun they forget about the learning part.”

Grokcraft, a new startup, aims to bring the power of Minecraft to help parents, kids and professionals engage in playful social-emotional learning (SEL). The company launched in January this year after Langlois noticed a gap in colleagues learning about using video games in their work that ran parallel to a gap he saw in children’s social emotional skills acquisition. These gaps, along with parental concerns for more secure and prosocial places for their children to play, prompted Langlois to start the company, the first to focus on using Minecraft specifically to foster SEL

“All our members are vetted and for youth we require parent permission to participate,” says Langlois. “Our adult counselors are available to mentor youth with the goal of letting as much cooperation and conflict happening without adult intervention. Our youth group, Grok Corps, will be open to those who want to be trained in conflict resolution and online moderation. Our vision is that kids will not avoid conflicts as much as learn to resolve them when they arise. We believe that in free play, children and adults can learn mindfulness, empathy and other social skills in a playful environment.”

Social Emotional Learning or SEL refers to a set of core competencies children need to master in order to become successful learners, including self-management, self-awareness, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness. There is a growing body of research which suggests that SEL has a positive impact not only on academic achievement, but also bullying prevention, social justice, and managing stress.

While children are learning these valuable life skills, professionals such as educators, speech and language therapists and psychotherapists will be learning how to play the game and use technology from kids and staff. “We provide a high-touch learning environment for adult educators and clinicians to learn how to use Minecraft in their work,” said Langlois, adding that monthly seminars for educators, in-game coaching and instruction are available to give professionals a fun way to learn and practice 21st-century gameplay and add it to their professional repertoire.

Grokcraft is an educational rather than therapeutic milieu. Based on the educateur model, professionals are encouraged to refer clients who would benefit from play-based social emotional learning. So although staff members are licensed clinicians, they will not be doing therapy but instead partnering with schools and agencies if requested to provide children with extracurricular activities to foster SEL. That’s more fun than it may sound, with current groups being offered including Redstone Engineering, Pixel Art Gallery and Demolition Night. Langlois believes that Grokcraft, with its focus on intergenerational collaboration and play-based learning will be a great synergy: “We’re hoping people have so much fun they forget about the learning part.”