Lessons Learned: Pirate Base Alpha

I’m fortunate this year to have an elective class called Minecraft Academy to end my day. I always look forward to it because we get to really dive in and uncover what it is about Minecraft that we find interesting. One of the projects we do is based around the idea of a large-scale collaborative team build.

We watched an incredible time-lapsed video of a build called Land of Akane. It was  created by a team of master builders in the UK and demonstrates what can be accomplished if everyone works together as a team. My students were speechless at the conclusion.

Our challenge was to build what we called Pirate Base Alpha in a lagoon area I discovered in a random Minecraft world. I was determined to stay out of the planning and construction of this build as I wanted to see what my students could accomplish on their own.

We watched the video five or six times, stopping often to see how the FryeUK community were able to accomplish what they did. My students discovered and then implemented numerous strategies to complete their build.

  • Assign specific duties and responsibilities to individual builders.
  • Work through several iterations in design before choosing one everyone likes.
  • Separate build areas clearly.
  • Work to your strengths and build something that challenges you.
  • Communicate with your partners and work closely together.
  • Limit the blocks in your toolbar to avoid confusion.
  • Be prepared to cover for someone in their absence.
  • Everyone is important.

I provided very little structure, other than a flexible timeframe. They decided to practice building in a flat world before “starting the clock” in the lagoon.

It was an extraordinary experience for me as I focussed on watching, listening to and learning from my 32 students working together as a team. This video represents five class periods of work in creative mode, done in time-lapsed fashion. The pirate ships were schematics,  placed in the lagoon my me to add a bit of color and in keeping with the theme.

Student teams built:

  • Pirate “condos”
  • Defensive walls and a jetty
  • Commercial center and warehouses
  • Dry dock
  • Wharfs
  • Lighthouse


  1. This is incredible!! I’d LOVE to do this at school. I’m not sure where it would fit into our curriculum – how does your elective class work? Is it based on a set of objectives or is it up to individual teachers to provide what they enjoy?
    I have a few of questions:
    – how do you get the interesting blocks? The wood and the laterns etc – i haven’t seen anything like that in my average ps4 minecraft.
    – We don’t have minecraftedu yet (i assume thats what you use?) so it might become clear when we get it. But how do you ‘film’ what is going on? Did you fly around and do a screen capture vid and speed it up? Any particular software?
    – Lastly, did you make the ships or did you import them in? If so, how?
    Thank you!
    Helen (@mrs_scott15)

    • Hi Helen,

      I thought I replied to this earlier – oops! I use this unit as a summative assignment after my kids go through the basics of Minecraft play. Most of them have never played before, so this elective class allows me to develop curriculum of my own. Leading up to this unit, we work on collaboration and math through a series of survival challenges.

      I use a “resource pack” to make the blocks look different. It is a file that is placed in the resource folder in Minecraft. I filmed this on my Mac using Apple’s Quicktime software. I left it running for several minutes while the kids built and then sped it up using Quicktime. The ships are imported as “Schematic” files, but my kids did build one of those. 🙂

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