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Why Minecraft is the newest and coolest teaching tool in school.

LA Makerspace teaches kids to code, problem-solve, and build ... using Minecraft.

Why Minecraft is the newest and coolest teaching tool in school.

Have you ever heard of Minecraft?

If you haven't, don't worry — I had no clue what it was either until my 14-year-old brother showed it to me. It's a game that has become really popular in the past few years, and it looks kind of like Legos coming to life combined with The Sims.

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GIF via Daily Motion.


In the game, you can build worlds, craft shelters, create tools, and go on missions. It's kind of old school but in a refreshing way. People love Minecraft for the same reason they loved The Sims: There aren't many rules, and you don't have to worry that someone hiding around the next corner might kill you and steal your ammo (... usually).

Minecraft might seem like just a sweet video game. But now it's being used as a teaching tool for kids, too.

Remember when "educational games" involved watching your pixelated family and livestock perish repeatedly on the Oregon Trail? Yeah, things have gotten a lot more sophisticated since then.

Los Angeles Makerspace, a nonprofit dedicated to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), just proposed a camp that will teach underprivileged kids to code, problem-solve, and build ... using Minecraft.

They're partnering with Connected Camps, an organization that offers game-based coding camps, to make it happen.

"These workshops move students beyond coding syntax and get them learning how [to] code robust, unique programs to solve complex problems," Tara Tiger Brown from LA Makerspace told Boing Boing.

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GIF via Connected Camps/YouTube.

That's right: Kids are learning to code programs and solving complex problems in elementary school. Is anyone else wishing they'd actually made progress on their New Year's resolution to complete Codecademy?

LA Makerspace wants young coders to rediscover the fun and adventure in learning, so they're using games that kids already love.

It's part of a bigger trend you've probably noticed lately: "gamification," which occurs when things like work, school, and exercise are turned into games. That's why some businesses are starting video game competitions. It's why my family does a weekly Fitbit challenge. And it's also behind some schools' decisions to put iPads and game apps in classrooms.

It's important to bring the fun back into learning because much of that gets lost in schools that are required to focus largely on standardized testing.

Anyway, back to the Minecraft coding camps.

To sweeten the deal even further, the organizers plan to bring high school and college students in as mentors for the kids, fighting back against youth unemployment in L.A.

The mentorship part of the program is important; studies have shown that having an older mentor they can trust could help keep kids out of trouble and in school.

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Image via LA Makerspace flickr.

The opportunity to learn how to code as a kid could be life-changing, too.

According to Code.org, there will be 1.4 million open computer science jobs by 2020, but less than 1% of accelerated high school students are enrolled in computer science.

Students of color make up less than one-tenth of that 1% of students, so it's extra important for LA Makerspace and Connected Camps to launch this camp in underserved communities. Right now, about a quarter of their existing workshops are offered in places where half the families live below the poverty line.

Programs that teach underprivileged kids how to code might even be a great way to fix the diversity problem in tech.

This new project isn't a done deal yet, though. It's currently in the running for a competition to win $100,000, and they've made it to the top 10. They'll find out if they win by early December.

Check out the video about the program:

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."