Millport Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) is jointly funded by Historic Environment Scotland and North Ayrshire Council and aims to preserve the historical features of Millport (Isle of Cumbrae) and reinvigorate it as a seaside and island destination. The conservation works are supported by an outreach plan aiming to engage local community and visitors with the local heritage and history.
One of the aims of the outreach plan was to engage local children with local heritage via a series of face-to-face workshops that would explore the history and heritage of the area, including Scottish culture, language and tradition.
However, due to COVID-19 and the resulting isolation rules for home schooling, Kasia Smith, the Millport CARS officer, needed to develop an alternative to her planned face-to-face activities and had an idea to use Minecraft to engage with the children. She turned to Mari Findlay from Interface to help her find a suitable academic partner or student group that could develop a heritage themed interactive game that could be used in both classroom and remotely in a home learning environment based on a very modest budget.
Mari introduced Kasia to the internationally renowned School of Design and Informatics at Abertay University; Europe’s top-ranked institution for video games education. Supported by teaching fellow Kayleigh Macleod, the project was assigned to games students Claire Monaghan, Fergus Coyne and Romain Bourdon who worked on the project for three months.
Due to travel restrictions, the students were unable to visit the island before they began their work and had to use images and other online resources as their only point of reference. Housed on the Minecraft Education platform, Cumbraecraft has been designed with eight distinct lessons and is designed to let children explore local heritage landmarks and learn more about their local history.
Student Fergus Coyne said: “Making Cumbraecraft allowed us to use the range of skills we’ve learned on our courses at Abertay to create a fun product that will be used in the real-world. It was great to be able to create a game which will allow children to learn more about the history of their local area as well as showcase the tourism offering on the island.”
In addition to enhancing the Curriculum for Excellence - the national curriculum for Scottish schools - Cumbraecraft has demonstrated how games can engage young people with learning about their heritage in a visual, interactive and fun way. Additional benefits also included contributing to an electronic record of local heritage as well as introducing young people to potential career options in gaming and computer arts.
Depending on the success of this pilot project, the potential is there for implementing this tested and fully evaluated model across other schools within North Ayrshire Council, as well as a package for other conservation projects across Scotland.