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Website review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2016
Sustainaville

Sustainaville

Sustainable-community sim teaches students how to conserve

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
6–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Fun, challenging game spreads global awareness and positive SEL messages; students can donate money to real causes.

Cons: Gameplay isn't intuitive, occasional crashes occur, and the game's social aspect is currently offline.

Bottom Line: Engaging, relaxed game may give students the basics of sustainable communities and develop SEL skills.

Teachers can use Sustainaville to raise awareness of global concerns such as clean drinking water, natural disasters, health care, and other issues that affect those who live in lesser-developed areas. This game will especially be applicable in world geography lessons, but the SEL value exists anywhere. Have students work by themselves or in pairs or have them work on the game for homework. Since it's free to play and available on many platforms, it can be used in a computer lab or in a classroom fitted with tablets for each student. Encourage students to connect with each other in the game, which gives each student additional tools for completing the levels.

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Sustainaville asks students to build sustainable communities in four undeveloped regions: a savannah, an arid climate location, a tropical area, and an island. As students play, more of the game gets unlocked, including all four regions, different tools and bonuses, and more difficult levels. Students can get bonuses in the game by doing well, by connecting with friends who play the game, and by making real-life donations to Save the Children. In the game, students learn that teamwork, helping others, and receiving help can make or break a sustainable community.

Students begin each level by making it sustainable in a basic way (setting up a water source, a house, and a food crop). From there, students work to meet the requirements of the level -- providing the proper amount of water, food, housing, health, education, and disaster preparedness -- by placing various items on the map and assigning villagers to certain tasks. Each item they place costs in-game money, but each level provides award money if successfully completed. Students will need to strike a balance between resources provided and money conserved for later levels. The money available carries over from level to level, so doing well in early, easier levels sets players up for success for the later, more difficult levels. Also, as more levels are completed, more tools and bonuses are unlocked. 

A fun and interesting resource-allocation simulation, this charity-sponsored game teaches and inspires. Each level is a puzzle requiring different priorities and combinations of solutions. Kids can likely solve the early levels without using the bonuses or any of the fancier resources (such as the chicken coop or the evacuation center), so they may not know how to best use those resources when they come across the bigger challenges later.

Still, the game teaches kids the basics of what's necessary to create a sustainable community and how several of those resources work together. It also gives kids the opportunity to think hard and creatively about problem-solving and efficiently allocating their resources, as well as letting them feel empathy for the characters. The game does occasionally crash, however, which can be frustrating, but it saves your progress if you're logged in.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The gentle learning curve draws in all students, and interesting real-life-based goals and puzzles make students truly feel they're helping the game's characters. Students will want to keep going when they finish a level.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Students learn what's needed for a sustainable community in undeveloped regions and how resources can be used together to create a solution. Many levels can be completed without the more interesting tools, however.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

The included tutorial is extremely helpful to new players, but there doesn't seem to be a way to turn it off once students get oriented. Also, the website forums have little content, and the social aspect is closed.


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