New Free Online Game Lets Students Run a County
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A free online game can help students learn the basics of being in county government. "Counties Work" was created by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and non-profit gamemaker iCivics. The game puts participant avatars through the paces of directing citizens to the right county department to deal with their specific requests or rejecting the requests outright, depending on budget availability and the relevance of the request. At the same time, they're busy setting tax rates and managing town growth--which comes with development expense and new tax revenues--and dealing with unexpected county emergencies. Every four years in game time the player has to meet or exceed a citizens' satisfaction ranking of 50 percent in order to be re-elected.
Intended for students in grades 6 through 12, Counties Work was designed to communicate the roles and functions of various county agencies by letting them run their own county. Students learn about the various services provided by county departments, such as road maintenance, law enforcement, courtroom and jail services, parks and recreation, and health and human services. A curriculum and Webquest has also been developed to assist teachers with preparing lessons on county government.
iCivics includes curriculum tools to help teachers prepare lessons about county governments.
"This is a great opportunity for students to better understand the programs and services that counties provide," said Tarrant County, TX Judge Glen Whitley, former NACo president who led development of the game under a "County Government Works" initiative during his term.
iCivics was initially the vision of former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was concerned that students don't get the information and tools they need for civic participation and that civics teachers need better materials and support.
"We are thrilled to partner with NACo to make the first video game about counties and teach students about the intricacies of local government," said iCivics co-founder Jeff Curley.
Counties Work can be played as a guest or registered user at icivics.org.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.