I remember fondly the days of playing Oregon Trail in my middle school computer class. The game exposed players to the harsh realities of pioneer life, while also teaching us about resource management and the correlation of compiled risky decisions. Check out some (much) newer games that teach sustainability.
What We’re Reading… and playing!
In the game Electrocity, teachers can recreate this concept of resource management by having students create their own cities and manage the growth in an effort to maintain longevity. Instead of experiencing death and a lack of food as Oregon Trail focuses on, in Electrocity, students are building and managing a city’s overall energy and economic resource need versus production.
The players’ decisions are around energy, sustainability, and economic growth in order to ensure their city’s survival. Each student has 150 turns in which they can decide to build, buy or sell energy, preserve land, and create tourism with the overall goal of maintaining a sustainable city for the future.
Try PowerUp from IBM – a free online 3D video game where students can work together to save the fictitious planet, Helios, from ecological devastation. Students learn about energy-saving techniques from engineers, from clicking on different objects that they come across within the game (laptop, power strips, etc.), and they are asked trivia about which usage behavior will create the smallest energy draw.
Players can partake in various missions involving producing renewable energy to counteract pollution by visiting three locations: Wind Island, Hydro Mission, or Solar Mesa. For example, when visiting Wind Island, players race to collect turbine parts and attempt to rebuild a wind turbine to counteract the “SmogGobs,” that look like land versions of an octopus morphing into a cloud of dirty smoke.
This game is definitely engaging and offers a teacher resource section with suggestions on how to incorporate the game into a lesson plan. It can be downloaded through either a Windows or Mac OS X version. The Mac version is only available in a single player mode at this time, but I am sure your students will be just as engaged!
If you are looking for an interactive way for students to actually make decisions around sustainability, check out MySustHouse Games. This series offers three separate games or scenarios in which students can help create their own sustainable feature. The Environment Game (for ages 9 and older), the Building Game (for ages 12 and older), and the Town Game (for ages 12-14) all offer unique opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking around issues of development and sustainability.
The creators do a great job with their teacher resource section and the short video commentary alone will have your students buzzing, as many of them have probably never heard a Scottish accent. Check it out!
All three of these games, among others, surrounding the theme of sustainability can be found at: http://learningforsustainability.net/internet/online_games.php
What We’re Watching
Watch this short clip on how one middle school in Virginia uses tech and project-based learning to help regenerate oysters in their local river: