Project leader: Noah Weber
The Sustainable Societies Simulation (SSS) is an interactive classroom Social Sciences curriculum in which each student assumes the role of leader of a fictional society in a world shared by their classmates’ societies. As students learn about different aspects of social science – geography, economics, etc. – they make decisions about their individual societies that influence various indicators which measure each society in relation to one another. These indicators include objective measurements like population and food production, as well as more intangible concepts like freedom, security, and equality. For example, after learning about systems of government in class, students are asked to choose a system of government for their society. Some students may elect for a more democratic system that sacrifices their personal political control in the name of individual freedom, or they might opt to become an absolute monarch who rules with unchecked power. They may then have to respond to scenarios that arise such as political protests or attempted coups. As students navigate the process of making decisions, sacrifices, and trade-offs for the best interest of their society, they are forced to apply critical thinking skills as they engage with various social science concepts and questions in contextual and nuanced ways. Having run the simulation for two years now, I could not be more encouraged by the potential this activity holds. Students have consistently been overwhelmingly engaged in the activity, and both subjective and objective data suggest legitimate gains in student achievement beyond the obvious engagement and “fun-factor” the activity produces. I believe the next step in the development of this project involves the creation of some kind of digital interface through which students interact with the simulation. I am hesitant to use the word “game,” but I don’t think that’s too far off. This could be a web-based interface, computer software, an app, or something I haven’t even imagined yet. The idea would be to create a user-interface through which students make the decisions about their societies, and which also tracks the effects of those decisions on their societal outcomes. The interface could also allow the teacher to influence the simulation from “behind-the-scenes” by implementing various events and scenarios like political uprisings and climate change. Some kind of visual element to the simulation that allows students to experience their societies in an aesthetic way would also be a goal of this new digital format. In closing, I am looking for ambitious, creative, and motivated individuals who are excited by the prospect of this project and who possess some kind of programming skills that they believe could be relevant to its future development. This idea is still in a very early and exciting stage, and there are a lot of different ways this concept could grow. Therefore there is no specific set of skills or background I am looking for. Please contact Noah Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more and/or if you are interesting in contributing.