A super-smart group of builders are proving it is possible to construct a school without getting your hands dirty.
Creative boys from 10 to 18-years-old at Monmouth School have taken to their favourite online game, Minecraft, to create a true-scale version of the historic buildings.
Having already recreated the School’s chapel, library, science blocks, boarding houses and main William Jones Building, the 35-strong team hope that, when it’s finished, their Minecraft representation can be used for virtual open day tours.
The ambitious boys also hope to one day build an accurate version of surrounding Monmouth to complete their masterpiece, which has united pupils from across the year groups.
Lyndsay Hope, Head of Computing at Monmouth School, said: “We had so many boys working on Minecraft and we wanted to give them a focus.
“It began in September, and a significant amount has been achieved in that time.
“They’ve been really careful about accuracy – their attention to detail is amazing.
“There is one student in charge of texturizing blocks to make them a match for school carpets, stone, books and lockers.
“I’m surprised at how committed and creative they have been.
“I love the fact we have 14-year-olds administering web servers, using real world skills.
“They are building different worlds, taking care of security, making sure TNT is disabled so people can’t mischievously blow the whole thing up.
“Within the environment of a game, they have developed remarkable real-world skills they will be able to apply later in life.”
Pupils Sam, Matthew, Harry, all 15, and James, 16, form the project’s admin team.
And despite the odd practical joke being played within the game, for instance when one classroom was filled with flustered chickens, the players take the task very seriously, meeting every Thursday afternoon to work on it.
Sam said: “Creating the School has been a humongous task.
“It’s really fun and a good way to get lots of people from across the School involved.
“We have a folder filled with real life pictures of the School to work from and we use Google to get measurements and make sure everything is to scale – we have to get it right.
“It’s a nice thing to have as our legacy. It will have a lot of relevance in the future.”
The project is also helping students to be more artistic and observational, looking for new things around the School and paying attention to detail.
All 76 names of former pupils who lost their lives in World War One have lovingly been written out on the Minecraft recreation of the School’s war memorial.
“I saw a boy taking photos of a door the other day,” Sam added.
“And I had to smile because I knew it was for Minecraft.
“From an artistic and architectural point of view – we’re looking at buildings like we’ve never looked at them before.
“We have never been in the staff room, so we didn’t know what it looked like until Mrs Hope drew us a map.
“One of our best friends is a boarder here and we’ve never seen his house until he built it for the project.
“Because of this project we know what it looks like now – we’re seeing parts of the School we’d never see otherwise.
“We have no idea what the roof looks like, so that hasn’t been built yet.
“But there has been some talk of us going up to have a look.”
As Minecraft grows in popularity, with more than 18 million subscribers to date, entire countries have been built on the game, as well as incredibly detailed versions of fantasy lands such as Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings.
The boys hope to have all of the School’s buildings complete by the end of the year.
“People have been really excited about this,” Sam continued
“One boy built his school house, Hereford House, in one weekend.
“People are proud of what they’ve built too, and sign their work. We meet on Skype to discuss things and have prizes every week for the best building work.
“From a management point of view it has been really fun to have 35 people involved and set up the complicated back-end admin.”
As well as including a resident sheep, called Lawnmower, in the virtual grounds, other little touches have been added to bring give the School personality.
These include the wreckage of a rowing boat at the bottom of the river.
Matthew said: “The aim is to have it available for anyone to look around the School – so prospective parents abroad can see it without getting on a plane.”
Sam added: “When we have the ability to show the School off in its full detail, it will be amazing to say ‘I built that, there’s my name’.
“To know that will be there forever is really something.”
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