Virtual School: UNIS moves to Minecraft


NEW YORK, NY – Walking into the familiar UNIS lobby, you can almost smell the fresh bacon, egg and cheese wafting in from the cafeteria. Reaching into your bag, you momentarily begin to panic, unable to find your ID. As you contemplate making a run for it, you suddenly remember — It doesn’t matter. You’re on Minecraft.

It is hard to maintain a sense of community during this pandemic, but, unsurprisingly, UNIS students didn’t let that stop them.

Starting mid-April, four students, ranging from T2–T4 made a one-to-one replica of the school and the surrounding area. The entirety of the building is as realistic as possible, ranging from the second-floor garden, which is seen from every floor of the building, to the tiles of the mosaic on the second floor B staircase.

How did this brilliant idea come to be?

Tal Rodkey, Coco Hollings, Emile Tal, and Luca Pang give a tour of UNIS.

“The UNIS Minecraft program began after I had randomly suggested to Tal that we should build UNIS in Minecraft,” said T4 Coco Hollings. “I made this comment thinking the idea wouldn’t go anywhere, but as soon as I suggested it, Tal, Aki, and Luca came together to try to bring this idea to life.”

Don’t let the impressiveness of the completed building fool you – it was a time-consuming and strenuous creation. “The hardest bit of building it was getting the dimensions right on the fundamental layout of the building and then again on each of the floors and hallways, and the size and placement of the stairwells” said Tal Rodkey, a T4. “There were a few mistakes that resulted in a lot of time wasted. If there was one thing out of place it would have an effect on everything else on the floor.”

It took more than 2 hours per day for two weeks, but Coco said it was worthwhile. “Because of this, I got to spend time talking to many people who I’ve never talked to before during my time at UNIS!”

This comes at a difficult moment for seniors as they are missing out on a large chunk of their senior year, including prom, graduation, and saying goodbyes, but this project has created a sense of community for students even during this difficult time.

“As a student who’s been at UNIS for 13 years, it’s been difficult to grasp the idea that this is the way I have to say goodbye to my years of high school,” said Coco. “We built this together to celebrate our mutual love and respect for this school, as well as for community engagement.”

Tal agrees. “We are all pretty upset that we’re missing the best part of our time at UNIS. Hopefully, this situation will prompt some good positive change and maybe even been something the class of 2020 can look back on.”

Although it isn’t the same walking into UNIS without your classmates right beside you and hearing Dr. Brenner greet you with a “good morning,” it is certainly one way we can maintain a sense of community while in isolation. “Sometimes the UNIS community feels very distant, especially now” Tal said. “But we’ve got a lot of positive feedback on what we’ve done and have a few kids eager to help.”

With all this construction, many students are wondering: Will the UNIS Minecraft roof renovations be completed before the real one? Log on to the server to find out!