Counties Work helps kids visualize government services
[Disclaimer: beginning and ending in 2011, I worked with iCivics as part of its Teacher Council.]
"Counties Work" is a Flash game developed by iCivics and Filiment Games.It is part of the iCivics website and curriculum. It's supported by in-game instructions, an online teacher's guide, and an online follow-up lesson. "Counties Work" features iCivics's distinct graphic style, isometric perspective, and point-and-click interface.
In "Counties Work," kids are put in charge of county services and taxes. As citizens appear in town, kids click on the citizens to find out what they need. Kids then decide how best to help confused citizens ("Where do I pay my taxes?") and whether or not fund citizens' requests ("We need a new park!"). A few citizens make bogus requests that kids should reject to keep others happy.
If kids can keep the county afloat while keeping citizens happy for four "years," they are re-elected and win the game. Kids who mismanage their finances or citizens lose.
By playing "Counties Work," kids with iCivics accounts can unlock achievements and avatar items and accumulate Impact points to support charitable civic-engagement projects through iCivics.
How I Use It
In past years, I have used many of the iCivics games and lessons as a civics and economics teacher. While iCivics suggests using "Counties Work" as an introduction to local government and services, the game is fast-paced and winning depends on students' reading and inference-making skills. Therefore, I would definitely front-end "Counties Work" with a lesson tailored especially for my kids to give them all as equal footing as possible in understanding the role of local government and the functions of local offices. I would also encourage students to play and read through the game together on large screens so that they can help each react to the game's textual prompts.
I would embed the game in a sequence of lessons that helps student understand and then build their own "local" government in class to meet their needs so that they eventually collaborate to act out their own version of the game based on what they learn from it, from other lessons in the classroom, and from experiences with local government outside the classroom.