It’s said that one of the best ways to learn is through play, and that’s exactly what 80 school-age children experienced during this year’s Sydney Festival. Through workshops run by Devika Learning, they used Minecraft to learn about NSW Transport’s new trains, engineering, as well as Opal cards.

During the two hour workshops held at Barangaroo, Devika team member Tom taught the kids all about the new, driverless trains that NSW Transport is transitioning to. But unlike your average lesson at school, Tom got the kids using Minecraft to build their own digital train station from a checklist.

Anyone who’s spent time around kids knows how quickly they pick up new technology (and particularly games), and this is why Minecraft is such an effective educational tool. For those unfamiliar with the program, Minecraft could be described as digital Lego – essentially, it’s a game where you can make whatever you want using digital building blocks. Easy to use and incredibly fun, Minecraft is popular with kids. This also makes it an ideal educational tool, the familiarity it has with children means lesson plans can be constructed around the game without having to spend time teaching students how to use it first.

Minecraft has a lot of potential uses for educating students. Photograph: supplied

The Devika Learning workshops also taught kids about the NSW Transport Opal card: a reusable, reloadable smartcard ticket that’s been available since 2013. While children and young people have adapted to the new system quickly, older NSW residents have understandably taken longer to switch from paper tickets. The idea is that by teaching the younger generations about Opal (through fun workshops such as Devika’s), they will in turn teach the older generations.

Feedback from the workshops was overwhelmingly positive, from both NSW Transport and (most importantly) the kids involved.  Devika will run an additional 18 Minecraft workshops about the new trains throughout the 2017 NSW school holidays.

And the kids' response to the workshops?

For them, two hours was too short! Many of the kids wanted to take their digitally-created train stations home to continue building.  Luckily, the collaborative nature of Minecraft allowed Tom to email links to all these budding engineers, letting them to keep going with their projects at home. For these kids, it looks like it’s full-steam ahead.