and Teach Like A Gamer, a division of Canis Learning Systems (canislearning.

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Alternative Energy Science Lesson Plan Using Electronic Arts’ SimCity™ Societies

© 2008, All Rights Reserved Written by Azam Khan

SimCity Societies © 2008 Electronic Arts Inc. SimCity is a trademark or registered trademark of Electronic Arts Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All Rights Reserved. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Screenshots of SimCity Societies used with permission. Distribution Relationships Include:

“SimCity Societies is in the unique position of educating while entertaining. BP Alternative Energy's sponsorship of the SimCity Societies game provided us with the technical expertise to build 'energy choices and consequences' into the gameplay, so that youth around the world can be better informed. We welcome's efforts towards our 'educating while entertaining' philosophy.” ---- Steve Seabolt, VP, Global Brand Development, Electronic Arts Inc.

“Using the popular SimCity Societies video game to introduce alternative power to our children is a good idea and has done a very fine job with the lesson plans.” ---- Marilyn Nemzer, Director, Energy Education Group

“The proposed educational game is exactly the kind of media tool needed now for engaging the upcoming generation in ecologically informed decision making. Future leaders in all fields will benefit from testing alternative scenarios with the quickness that games provide. Fast feedback that comes from gaming is a top notch approach to proving what works, and what doesn't - in simulating real world issues that matter more every day as we move into the future of energy transformation. Given the superior experience that hands on, heads up gaming provides, this proposal to engage educators in green gaming is a winner, for sure.” ---- Allen Green,

“ has created a highly innovative approach to teaching students about alternative energy. From its engaging in-game challenges to the informative and practical real world assignments, this curriculum presents leading edge science in a way that students will find fun and memorable. I look forward to trying this with my students.” ---- Lucia Moritz, 6th grade math teacher, Foshay Learning Center


SimCity Societies is a highly dynamic city-constructing simulation game that allows a player to create a civilization in a myriad of ways. Ultimately shaped by the choices of the creator, cities can embody the characteristics of green, futuristic, industrial and lots of other societal models. All the elements of the city are connected, whether cultural or environmental, thus making a novel approach to city-building. The city is shaped by the decisions that affect the main attributes:       Productivity Prosperity Creativity Spirituality Authority Knowledge

The socio-political freedom allotted to the player is complemented by abilities to implement over 500 unique objects on the micro scale, ranging from workplaces to residential buildings and venues. With the availability of such diverse aspects such as architectural aesthetics, SimCity Societies provides students a dazzling and holistic learning experience. This will help students learn about alternative energy in the fun game environment that students love by allowing them to build a simulated city while learning about the impact of alternative energy. The curriculum has 10 lessons, each one is divided into two main parts:   Game play Real-world applications

Students will learn the basics in the tutorial, and then commence their own city. They will also do research at home that will expose them to various aspects of alternative energy and how it can be applied in their own school. The students should record everything in a journal or whatever format the teacher feels is best.
Author’s Bio

Azam Khan is a curriculum developer with Canis Learning Systems. He is also a freelance program designer who creates study programs that accompany popular video games. His upcoming projects will continue exploring the frontiers of progressive learning. Updates can be found on his blog at


User Requirements

To get the most out of these lesson plans, you will need:   
SimCity Societies - from

Computing Platform Requirements Journal (to record class questions and homework assignments)

Intended Audience

GreenCity is intended for students in grades 6-12, but it is fun for all ages. Each lesson plan contains game play and real world homework or assignments that can be applied across several grade levels.
Time Frame

GreenCity is created around 10 lesson plans that may be distributed according to your own time frame. The SimCity Societies game play elements do take some time to develop, so it may be best to plan on X weeks to completely finish the lessons.

         home page  Best energy educational sites  Teachers Group to share ideas  Kids fun activities – rate the best activities on the web - General industry news and links for Wind Energy - Understanding how to setup a wind turbine - Understanding wind energy - Understanding solar energy - Solar installation - Geothermal Resource - Emissions Calculator incentives for renewable energy projects in your state alternative energy facts


Lesson 1 - LEARN THE BASICS OF CITY DEVELOPMENT Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 2 - APPLY ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE TOWARDS CREATING A CITY Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 3 - CONTROL HOMELESS AND UNEMPLOYED POPULATION Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 4 - IDENTIFY AND MEASURE THE EFFECTS OF POLLUTION Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 5 - ANALYZE CITY BEFORE BEGIN THE "GREENING PROCESS" Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 6 - GREENIFY CITY Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 7 - IDENTIFY THE EFFECTS ON CARBON AND POLLUTION Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 8 - SIMILAR ECONOMY DESPITE INVESTMENT IN RENEWABLES Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 9 - MEET THE ACHIEVEMENTS Game Play Real – World Assignment Lesson 10 - MISSING FORMS OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY Real – World Assignment


Lesson 1
Objective: Students will learn the basics of city development by following the tutorial and laying out the foundations of a fun city.
In Game:

1. Start Game 2. Pick Name 3. Play Tutorial Tutorial focuses on creation of Fun City: Setup Power -> Residential buildings -> Workplaces -> Transit system -> Happiness & Venues -> Expansion
Home Activity:

Research basic information pertaining to your locale 1. What is the population of your city? How many students at your school? How many staff? 2. What utility companies are supplying electricity to your city and what energy sources are they using? Subject area - Technology Standard - Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Benchmark - Understand and use technology systems.


Lesson 2
Objective: Students will apply acquired knowledge from tutorial towards creating a city from scratch that will initially use polluting power sources
In Game:

Start new city on normal difficulty and buildings unlocked as game progresses. Begin by choosing an achievement to work towards. Click achievements on the lower left hand side. Pick one of the 7 that you want to achieve. Choose the game speed on the lower left hand side. There are 5 to choose from. It is recommended you start off at 2 and then increase to 3 or 4 after the basics of your city are laid out. Create city: 1. Implement a polluting fossil fuel power source (for example, coal and natural gas) 2. Setup residential area 3. Setup transit (roads) 4. Setup workplaces, venues and decorations
Home Activity:

Research the basic science behind coal. Coal is the most abundant electricity generating resource used today. Answer the following questions as best as possible: 1. How is coal formed? 2. Where is coal found and how do you get it? 3. How is coal processed? 4. How does coal generate electricity? Subject area - Technology Standard - Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Benchmark - Understand and use technology systems.


Lesson 3
Objective: Students will demonstrate the ability to properly progress in city development while keeping homeless and unemployed population less than 5% of population and 10 or fewer workers whose mood is sad. At this point you are free to build as you see fit. You will now grow the city in accordance to what you want to achieve. As more people get jobs at workplaces, you will see money come in near the end of the day. It is recommended you monitor your income so you do not spend too much. Also try to keep homeless people and unemployment workers to a minimum.
In Game:

1. Continue growing city and explore buildings with "clickable" functions 2. Try to keep unemployment, crime, and homeless levels less than 10% of population 3. Record any messages related to pollution in journal 4. Explore Industrialist buildings. Is your city an industrialist city? Do you equate industrialists with polluting? Why or why not?

A class discussion should follow briefly going over the coal homework assignment from last night.

Home Activity:

Research environmental impact of fossil fuels. 1. What is global warming? What is the science behind CO2 emissions and global warming? 2. Find levels of carbon emissions for any year in the 90s or 00s for Coal, Petroleum and Gas 3. Find how much kWh generated by Coal, Petroleum, and Gas for any year


Lesson 4
Objective: Students will identify and measure the effects of pollution on their SimCity
In Game:

1. Continue building towards achievement. If achievement desire has changed - then note so and explain why the change occurred. 2. On the lower left hand side, click the Sim info card 3. Record the smog & carbon graphs along with % contributions from cars and buildings 4. Explore Romantic buildings. What common elements do you see? 5. Explore decorations that provide nearby effects. What do you find interesting?
Home Activity:

Research the economics/finance behind energy sources being used in the school 1. Find the price of kWh being paid to the utility company 2. What's the cost of getting a power pole added to the grid? 3. What is the school's electricity bill per month? per year? Subject area - Technology Standard - Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Benchmark - Process data and report results.


Lesson 5
Objective: Students will demonstrate the ability to analyze their city before they begin the "greening process".
In Game:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Click info card on bottom left side of the screen Record happiness level Record Budget Record Crime Explore Contemplative buildings. What common elements do you see? What are examples of contemplative buildings in your own city?

In the last 10-15 minutes, a class discussion should ensue talking about the greening of the city. The students should beginning planning out a greening strategy for their city. This will involve bulldozing any sources that have a CO2 level of medium or high. Depending on how far they have progressed, they will have options of choosing from other low to 0 carbon emitting sources such as Coal-Hydrogen, Hydrogen, Nuclear, Geothermal, Wind and Solar. Each power plant varies in price and the amount of energy it generates, so they must consider the tradeoffs involved and not remove polluting power plants too fast unless they have the ability (money) to replace the amount of power that was being generated. Briefly introduce wind, solar, and geothermal energy from a scientific perspective.

Home Activity:

Research the science behind how solar & wind 1. How do each work? 2. What makes them renewable? 3. How widespread is their use? Subject area – Technology Standard - Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Benchmark - Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

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Lesson 6
Objective: Students will demonstrate the ability to greenify their city
In Game:

1. Click the bulldozer icon and bulldoze all power plants with medium and high CO2 level emissions. Do this only if you've done the research and have enough money to compensate for the lost power. Remember: Renewable sources are MORE expensive per unit of electricity they generate. 2. Calculate how much total power will be generated by the renewable energy sources 3. Forecast how you think the city will change at this time (carbon, health, budget, pollution, etc.) and record. 4. Explore the Cyberpunk buildings. What elements do you think unifies them? What do you think of when you think of cyberpunk? 5. Write your thoughts about "knowledge" and what that means in real life. What are the end results of having knowledge-based activity in a city?

Home Activity:

Research environmental impact of switching to renewable energy. 1. How many kW does the school need to operate? 2. Estimate how much CO2 would be reduced if the school was to use ONLY renewable energy. 3. It is said that one of the concerns of implementing a wind turbine is that it leads to avian death (birds, bats etc). Would this be an issue at your school? Why or why not? 4. How would solar panels / wind turbines look if placed in your school? How do students and staff feel about them? How about neighbors that live near the school? 11 | P a g e

Lesson 7
Objective: Students will identify the effects on carbon and pollution as they green their SimCity.
In Game: 1. Click the message log at the bottom of the screen and record any messages regarding pollution 2. Click info card and record the pollution and smog graphs and the relative contributions of buildings and cars 3. Create an equation relating how much money was spent on renewable resources vs. frequency of messages related to pollution (you should see the # of messages decline). 4. Evaluate the impact on health, happiness, as well as on the city’s income and budget. 5. Explore authoritarian buildings. What are some examples of authoritarian societies today and what methods does the govt. use to maintain their authority? What's the opposite of authority? 6. What is your level of crime? What factors in the game relate to crime?

Have a class discussion about going green. Students need to understand that using ONLY renewable energy may not be financially feasible and only supplementing with renewable energy sources is still doing a lot.

Home Activity:

Research economics of implementing wind & solar in school 1. Since you found out the kW requirements of the school to be using only renewable energy, calculate the costs of the products that would be needed after choosing a brand (costs only, not system design or installation costs). Students will need to research online for companies that provide wind products and those that provide solar. 2. What is the installation costs including system design and site surveying? 3. Calculate the payback period. In other words, when will the total costs of renewable energy installation be made-up in savings? 4. Who are the decision makers at your school that would make decisions regarding renewable energy? 12 | P a g e

Lesson 8
Objective: Students will attain similar economic growth as before despite heavy expenditure on renewable energy
In Game:

1. Improve the transit system in your city by considering either subway or bus stops. How could either of those help lower pollution? 2. Explore the spiritual aspect of SimCity Societies by expanding a part of your city and setting up spiritual venues, workplaces, residential areas. What do you consider spirituality? What is the benefit of spirituality? (there must be something or else why would SimCity Societies have a category in there) Have a class discussion about on-grid and off-grid systems. On grid means that the system would connect to the grid, so any energy you create you don't have to pay for, but when you're not getting enough energy (which will happen in most cases), you can use the electricity from the grid. Off-grid connects to batteries.
Home Activity:

Research regulatory framework 1. What permits are required? 2. What does it cost to apply for permits? (Wind turbines sit on towers so they need specific permits. Solar may or may not depending on the area you are in) 3. Would these systems be connected to the electrical grid 4. How long would the entire process, from permits to installation take? 5. Find out current legislations that exist in your area.

Subject area - Technology Standard - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Benchmark - Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.

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Lesson 9
Objective: Students will demonstrate attainment of long term goal by finishing the requirements to meet the Achievements they initially aimed for.
In Game:

1. Accelerate speed as needed and put final touches on the city 2. Choose 5 different people (preferably in different parts of the city) by clicking on them. Record what it shows. How happy are the people with you? (For example, do they feel like you aren't spending enough? Are they angry about crime? Etc.)
Home Activity:

Research social issues around renewable energy 1. What are your personal views regarding the energy crisis and what role do you think renewable energy can play? (Is it feasible, what are the challenges etc) 2. Interview one of your family members and ask them the question you answered above. Ask them specifically about wind and solar. Ask them if they have heard of the goal of 20% of America's electricity being generated by Wind by 2020 initiative. Does it sound feasible? Why or why not? Subject area - Technology Standard - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Benchmark - Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity

What’s happening in this picture? Well you’ll just have to play more to find out.  14 | P a g e

Lesson 10
Missing forms of Alternative Energy The game doesn’t address several forms of alternative energy. One of them has been used for more than 100 years, geothermal energy. Although geothermal doesn't always get as much attention in the news as either solar or wind energy, it is an important renewable energy source.
Home Activity:

1. What is base load power? What is peaking power? 2. What are advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy? 3. What produces more energy in a year a 100 MW wind farm or a 100 MW geothermal project? Why? 4. Why do you think geothermal doesn’t get as much attention as solar or wind. 5. What other forms of alternative energy are there? List 3 and explain pros and cons. You can use this site for research:

SOURCE: Geothermal Education Office

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Wrap Up
Conclusion and discussion of entire experience. Teachers are encouraged to formulate their own discussion based on the experience the class had not only of renewable energy but also of this learning with games experience.

Distribution Relationships:

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