Common Sense Review
Updated December 2012

City of Materials

Gripping crime scenes teach materials science, but are heavy on text
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • The cell phone-like interface allows kids to review their inventory.
  • The cell-phone also shows text-based help information.
  • The City Map allows users to go to any available location.
  • Clickable signs show kids all types of information, like clues and advice.
  • Materials science lessons are embedded throughout the game.
This captivating, virtual crime-solving experience draws students in over many sessions.
The text-heavy info boxes may be frustrating for younger or less capable readers.
Bottom Line
City of Materials is an engaging way for middle and high school kids to learn a new branch of science.
Paul Cancellieri
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

The crime/mystery story line grabs kids' attention and keeps them progressing through levels to solve the puzzle.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Exploration, quizzes, and virtual experiences teach the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of materials. Kids must master levels to move on.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Help screens are wordy, which might frustrate younger readers. Players can't interact, but the multimedia aspects of the simulation will help many kids learn.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

As a fun supplemental activity for classroom learning or after-school science clubs, City of Materials is sure to engage middle and high school kids through forensic investigations. Teachers in science and vocational education could use City of Materials as a student-paced independent lesson without much instruction or explanation.

The lack of a teacher dashboard may be discouraging, but the immersive plotline is a fantastic tool for grabbing kids' attention.

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What's It Like?

Investigating anything from a dognapping to a pair of mysteriously broken glasses, kids are immersed in a crime scene from the moment they log in to City of Materials. They choose to work at the Austen Detective Agency or the Griffith CSI Lab, and they must find clues. Moving the mouse lets them look around, and clicking objects provides more information, but kids have to use their reasoning skills to find answers.

As the story moves along, kids can visit various locations around the City by clicking on the map. They can visit the Science Center or a museum with rotating exhibits, talk to locals, or do a little shopping. Outside the City are more ways to interact with the world of materials science, including Materials Radio and Colleges and Careers.

Throughout the game, a cell phone-like interface pops up to give kids help and access to the items they've picked up. Information boxes also frequently pop up, explaining, for example, chemical components and properties, but they're well-integrated into the story. Instructions are text-only and can be lengthy, which might cause frustration for younger kids or struggling readers.

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Is It Good For Learning?

City of Materials is an expansive and involved place, and kids learn about materials science by playing games, doing at-home experiments, and using interactive tools. They can create an account to save their progress or simply play as a guest.

The game might take multiple sessions to complete. Kids get definitions for more complicated vocabulary terms by simply clicking highlighted terms, which helps build their knowledge and doesn't slow the simulation. Quick quizzes are embedded in many of the informational sections, providing some feedback and ensuring kids gain mastery before moving on.

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See how teachers are using City of Materials