This product is no longer available. Browse our curated lists to find other great options.

Citizen Science

Comical narrative game shows intersection of ecology and social issues

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 5 reviews

Privacy rating

Not yet rated
Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, English Language Arts, Science

Price: Free
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Web

Pros: Authentically mixes science and the humanities.

Cons: Ends just when subjects/issues reach the complexity they deserve.

Bottom Line: A polished introduction to the interaction between science and politics that's a bit linear but gets students gathering and using evidence.

Because the game is text-heavy, teachers will most likely find this a useful exercise for students to pursue alone. Used as homework, for example, Citizen Science could lead to productive class discussion about current science and community issues (e.g., recycling programs or carbon emission mandates) or as a platform for discussing how to collect evidence and construct arguments. Because the game leads the players through the scientific issues at hand while also highlighting larger skills and competencies, students don’t need to be engaged in classroom units on ecology or argumentation to still get something out of it.

Citizen Science also serves as a good introduction to a community-based research project. After playing, get students to target an ecological or environmental issue in their community. Students should gather information about the issue, identify stakeholders, and prepare an argument or presentation that convinces key decision-makers of the proper course of action to solve the problem.

Editor's Note: Citizen Science is no longer available to play.

Presented in a breezy Japanese anime style, Citizen Science invites players to think about the delicate interplay of science and public interest. The game starts with a strange tale of time travel, and then tasks the player with saving a lake from the varied interests of environmental protestors, farmers, fishermen, and local homeowners. Traveling back and forth through time, and accompanied by a giant talking muskrat, the player collects data, evidence, and arguments by running experiments, talking to characters, and playing with a snow globe-style simulation of the lake. With this evidence and data in tow, the player forms persuasive arguments used to sway public opinion. Although a bit linear, Citizen Science manages to walk players through some rich interactions and policy decisions.

Tackling the subject of lake ecology or public policy and opinion alone would be enough for most games. By weaving these two topics together in a lightweight, interactive simulation, Citizen Science manages to do both subjects justice. Because students actually explore the environment when collecting data and talking to characters, they see firsthand how to gather the evidence necessary to construct a persuasive argument and make good decisions. By running simple if/then experiments using the built-in mini-simulation, students can also witness how different choices impact the lake's health. These dynamic elements don't match the scope of something like SimCity, but they still help students see how different points of view and variables interact. In the end, the game’s rewards match the learning outcomes; students will find that the right research and the right arguments lead to positive outcomes.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Although heavy on narrative, Citizen Science keeps things light and interesting with time travel, comical anime characters, and devious talking rodents.


Citizen Science enlivens algae lifecycles and ecological decisions and consequences with an amusing interactive simulation. The simple lake model is helpful, while the persuasion simulation feels mechanical.


The game carefully walks students through how to play without feeling too pedantic. The downside: If students get stuck, they're left clicking around the screen trying figure out why.

Common Sense reviewer
David T.
David T. Director of academic technology

Community Rating

Scientifically accurate, interactive game to teach students about causes and solutions related to lake eutrophication.

In addition to accurate content and engaging interactive tools for sampling water clarity and chemistry, students enjoyed interacting with the different characters in the various locations along the lake shore. The dialogue was a bit wordy and the quaint puns were a bit complicated for my 3rd grade students, but I think this would not be an issue with older English-dominant students. I found that the navigation was a bit slow, and after 1 1/2 hours of playing around with Citizen Science, my character disappeared and I was unable to continue. I have had some students lose their work, and they completed the activities described above based on what they were able to complete. I think this is worthwhile, but there are a few bugs. I wouldn't recommend it for ESL students unless they were paired up with a strong English-speaker, nor would I recommend it for reluctant readers. Additionally, it's good to play through it yourself first so you know how to keep students from simply wandering around aimlessly looking for the next piece of evidence.

Continue reading

Privacy Rating

This tool has not yet been rated by our privacy team. Learn more about our privacy ratings