Monday, January 5, 2009

What is the River City Project?

River City is an interactive computer simulation for middle grades science students to assist them in learning scientific inquiry and 21st century skills. River City looks like a videogame but the content for the game was developed from the National Science Education Standards and the National Educational Technology Standards. River City is funded by the National Science Foundation. Picture taken from the River City Website:

Basically River City is a MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environment) that enables many students to access the virtual worlds simultaneously, communicate with other students through instant messaging and to interact with digital artifacts.

This is a view of the four areas of the interface for the students taken from the River City website:

Students travel back in time to address 19th century problems that are based on historical, sociological and geographical conditions in a town called River City. The city’s citizens are falling ill and the students must work together to help the town understand why the citizens are becoming ill. Students work in small research teams to look for causes of the illnesses, form and test hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and then make recommendations based on the data they collect. This is all done in an online environment.

The River City Project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation which provides access to the simulation, provides the curricular materials, professional development and assistance free of charge to the schools. The River City Project mainly works with middle grades science teachers but they have also worked with social studies, math and language arts teachers.

River City is a 17-hour curriculum that students will begin by taking a pretest and a research conference at the end of the unit. The curriculum is designed to replace existing science lessons. The curriculum is interdisciplinary covering ecology, health, biology, chemistry, earth science and history. Students will explore three diseases and learn how the diseases are spread and how the human interactions will the diseases affect the people and city. Students are given situations to identify problems, investigate the problem, and determine the multiple underlying causes for the diseases.

Screen shot from River City.

How do teachers determine if River City is right for their students? Check out the section on “Is River City Right for You?”

Also several videos have been created to help teachers better understand River City. The videos may be viewed in Quicktime or Realplayer. Here is the link to the River City videos:

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