June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
13.1354.1 - 13.1354.13
Using SimCity 4 Software as an Educational Tool to Complement Middle School Science and Mathematics
SimCity 4 (Electronic Arts/Aspyr) is a popular piece of entertainment software that has great potential for application in an educational context. Although students regard SimCity as a fun and engaging game, it is also a powerful and sophisticated environmental simulator. In this project, students used SimCity to engineer and maintain successful rural, suburban, and urban environments around natural landforms. This project was carried out through an NSF GK-12 Fellowship, pairing graduate students from the Drexel University College of Engineering with partner teachers in urban Philadelphia middle school classrooms.
Through a series of lesson activities using SimCity software, students practiced and developed a number of science and math topics critical in the School District of Philadelphia 6th grade curriculum, including landforms, environments, and the use of models to predict outcomes. They applied math skills to better understand scale as a form of ratio, used charts, plots and data tables to evaluate trends, and balanced income with expenditures.
The success of this module’s activities was gauged by written and verbal student assessments before and after each of the three activity phases. In these assessments, students were asked to articulate their understanding of various natural landforms and environmental processes, as well as the roles engineers play in the design and construction of towns and cities.
SimCity 4 is a piece of entertainment software, developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts and Aspyr Media. Since its early development, the SimCity series has garnered attention as an educational tool.1-4 In the course of this project, students were exposed to a wide variety of educational subject matter encompassing science, mathematics, geography, social studies and civics.
A module composed of three inquiry-based activities was developed around the SimCity software. This long-term project introduced students to the interface and mechanisms of the game, taught them to use terraforming tools to shape their landscapes with familiar and exotic landforms, and allowed them to develop towns and cities in their simulated environments. The students worked in teams to first generate a variety of landforms. Using the software’s terraforming and terrain design tools, they created mountain ranges, plains, canyons, river valleys, and other geological features for their land plots. While being introduced to the software and its terrain building tools in the first two activities of the module, the student teams were given civil engineering projects to accomplish. They were asked to evaluate the best location for their projects and to consider the balance of effects the projects would have on society and the environment. In the third activity of the module, students added a human component to their landscapes by constructing and maintaining population centers. Their objective was to design thriving villages, towns, and cities that adapted to and made use of the landforms present, while preserving as much of the natural environment as possible.
Cathell, M., & Birnkrant, M., & Robinson, J., & Blount, P., & Fontecchio, A., & Fromm, E. (2008, June), Using Simcity 4 Software As An Educational Tool To Complement Middle School Science And Mathematics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/4121
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