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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:

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Images via Canva and Unsplash

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Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

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