How I Use It
Quite a few of the games from National Geographic match up with my curriculum, so we have used a fair number of them. For example, we have a unit on Innovation that deals with the Neolithic Revolution and our current agricultural system. There are games related to decision making (e.g. Human Footprint Interactive, What the World Eats and Global Closet Calculator) that are more like extended infographics that are personalized to student behaviour. We use them to make personal some of the concepts we talk about like limitation of resources and carrying capacity.
The science and engineering section has more real games that require students to make choices, see the results of their choices and then react accordingly. The Play It Green: The Big Switch game, for example, gets students involved in the types of decisions that would be made in setting policy. This matches up with our urbanization unit in which students examine issues facing cities and work to design what they believe is their ideal city.
Some of the related activities are limited as games but help explain complex things like power generation in a way that a student can understand. I really appreciate Plan It Green: Generation Station for its simple take on wind, solar, coal etc. power generation methods. I was surprised students had no idea how power was generated and couldn't just ask our science teachers to throw it into the science curriculum. This game made it possible for student to understand it on sensible level.
The National Geographic games have a lot of potential for students to build some underlying understandings or to pursue curricular topics in a game-like environment. My so-so recommendation is due to the variety and variability of the different game types. Some are for dabbling and some are for more in-depth exploration. It really depends. I do have to say that there is a lot here - almost something for everyone teaching upper elementary to middle school social studies or science.