On April 15, 2019, one of the most iconic structures in Paris, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, suffered from a destructive fire; it destroyed the spire and the majority of the roof, its upper walls being battered down in damage, and it would’ve been demolished entirely if it weren’t for the architecture of the building itself and the efforts of the city to push back the flames.

The idea of the cathedral being turned into rubble is a terrifying thought. Pieces of our history — documents, architecture, and past grounds — would have been lost to time, giving the human race only bits and pieces of its existence through secondary sources. Sadly, this already started to happen with monuments that aren’t so lucky, ones that aren’t gifted with firemen or rescuers looking around in the rubble, but are in lines of demolition from war zones and terrorism.

Structures such as the Temple of Bel and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri were victims to conflict and strife in the Middle East, undergoing harm to its structures while their respective governments focus more on military rather than rebuilding its contents because of priorities.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) decided to do something about it. The non-profit organization has dedicated itself to the preservation of areas harboring cultural or historical significance, and they weren’t going to stand idly by while buildings were being ruined of its documents and presence. What they’ve decided to do was partner up with Minecraft: Education Edition in a full-fledged attempt to replicate the structures in-game and, in their mission’s words, bring “understanding of the [following] issues: aesthetic, cultural, and provision”.

The learning program, History Blocks, was born.

Spanning 30 countries, the program encourages the talk of cultural significance; the ability to recreate a model of the monuments for the sake of discussion and reference later on. In a world that’s filled with conflicts and differences, the program emphasizes the ability for a person to understand that the world is complicated and that it’s okay to be confused at first.

Activities range from constructing the buildings to having a collective walk through your class’s creations, writing down notes and conversing about the world we live in today. And usually the teacher can go even further and make their own projects — there’s no limit to what one can do. It all comes down to the message of communication, especially the communication of our diverse sets of cultures.

If you’re interested in using Minecraft as a way to teach about heritage sites and customs, we have a Minecraft: Education lesson template for you to read through. Any donations towards UNESCO can also be done here!

We don’t know what the future holds, that is for certain. So many events are happening at once and it’s really hard for organizations and governments to preserve pieces of our history amongst conflict and frustration. With programs like this, it places a lesson onto us over the understanding of the planet and the peers around us; it’s going to be hard, trivial, and even plain hopeless at times of grief, but we can do better.

We need to strive for the open-mindedness that people want, and if we can accomplish this, then at the direst of circumstances, we’ll be reassured that we are okay — and we aren’t going to go down without a fight.