Looking a bit like the Sims video game, Plan It Green is a new online challenge that aims to teach kids about the realities of city development, and energy management.
Aimed at middle schoolers, players get to be mayor for a day, and make decisions about where to build houses and lay down roads, whether to use revenue to construct parks, bike paths, organic farms and wildlife preserves, and how to balance out dirtier forms of energy production with cleaner, but less dependable, renewable power. Developed jointly by The Center For Science (a network of science centers), National Geographic, and General Electric, it is free and open for play now. There is a useful tutorial, and an explanatory video (see below).
“By having kids be the maker of their own city, they have to make choices,” says Meg Chapman, a communications director at GE. “They have to keep the power on, make it as clean as possible, and keep their citizens happy, and informed. It’s a way to learn by giving them that real-word experience through game-play, and it makes it fun.”
Players collect revenue–for example, by taking in rent–then spend it on building, conducting research, and starting initiatives. They advance through levels by creating a diversified energy portfolio (think “All Of The Above”), and by improving the town’s efficiency and smart systems. The exercise is to balance economic activity and infrastructure improvement, with environmental considerations–much like a real mayor had to.
Plan It Green is part of a larger program called Connect! Transform the Future, which also includes a library of teaching materials. Next year, the groups will release a 3-D film on similar themes. Hopefully, it’ll be as involving as the game.