Interview: Amara Justice and Dylan Sampson

The Future
StanleyElementary_0024

Photo by Rachel Coward

Amara Justice and Dylan Sampson, two 10-year-olds at Stanley Elementary in Tacoma’s Hilltop, used their computers to build a digital world that’s all-inclusive. Every one of their classmates, no matter their skills, can log in and play in it. Learn in it. Thrive in it.

But in reality most kids at Stanley Elementary are living in poverty. About a third of the students in Amara and Dylan’s fifth-grade class has computers at home, and less than half has in-home Internet access.

Amara and Dylan used MineCraftEdu to build their world. It’s an educational video game where students work together, solve problems and, “like make a society and stuff,” as Dylan puts it. Their teacher, Merri Pearson, is pilot-testing the game because she knows technology will be a huge part of her students’ future, and many don’t have access to computers outside of school. When she showed Amara and Dylan’s alternate reality to technology facilitators at a MineCraftEdu learning community meeting, they were “blown away.” Partly because they could tell Dylan was using code without formal instruction. We asked the students more about the world they created.

Q: Why did you want to build a world all your classmates could access? 
Dylan: The feeling of like, not being able to do something is just, bad. So, I don’t know. I’m a good person like that. I like people to be able to have the same quality experience as everyone else.

Q: Do you think technology is the future of education? 
Amara: I think technology could be like a part (of the future) but not a full part because we also need teachers who like know more stuff. Because you can’t learn everything from the Internet. Cause not everything from the Internet is true.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? 
Dylan: I want to be a computer programmer.
Amara: I want to be an athlete and a teacher when I retire from being an athlete.

Q: What kind of athlete do you want to be? 
Amara: Wrestler.

Q: Is it hard to build a world in Minecraft? 
Dylan: It depends on, really, how complicated you want to get … You could have a dirt house in Minecraft, you could have a mansion in Minecraft. Really, we did in-between. We made a good world that works but isn’t …
Amara: Perfect.
Dylan: Yeah, it isn’t perfect.
Pearson: If only we could all do that!

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is the managing editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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