With strong participant numbers following the summer 2011 release of the online game “Counties Work,” NACo is hoping to build on that momentum and get the game into classrooms across the country.
NACo members and state associations are spreading the word to their school systems, about the game, which was developed for NACo by the iCivics Foundation.
Counties Work raises awareness of how county government functions, the focus of NACo Past President Glen Whitley’s Presidential Initivative.
“I’ve heard a lot of positive comments about it, and I feel like it’s provided the kind of insight into county government, which is what we wanted out of it,” Whitley said.
A County Works player manages a small, but growing, county and along with referring concerned citizens to the departments that can address their issues, makes policy decisions that affect citizen satisfaction and population. After four years, in the game’s time, the player faces reelection.
As of Jan. 11, more than 100,000 students had played the game and more than 1,000 lesson plans have been downloaded, according to iCivics.
A lot of the work that must be done to spread the word is on the retail level, and can be accomplished the same way Whitley charged his colleagues during his tenure — getting out and talking to their communities about it.
Mattie Hatchett, a commissioner from Oakland County, Mich., is a strong evangelist for the game.
“People, not just children, are ignorant when it comes to county government—what it’s all about and what (county officials) do,” she said. “This game is an excellent tool for helping them find out what their county does.”
She is advocating for the game’s inclusion in the Pontiac School District’s curriculum.
“Getting that game on the curriculum in Pontiac and other schools in Oakland County is on my agenda,” she said. “The fact that it is a computer game makes it a great way to deliver knowledge to students, because that’s how they get a lot of their stimuli these days.
“I’m very excited about the program; I’ll push it as much as I can.”
Tanya Larriva, an eighth-grade civics teacher in Loudon County, Va. had a good reaction from her students when she introduced the game.
“My students really enjoy the Counties Work game and they really get a lot of experience with the content in a way that I can’t capture in my classroom,” she said.
Many counties and state associations are promoting the game via links on their web sites, and NACo and iCivics personnel have approached organizations that work in education, including the American Library Association and the National Schools Superintendants Association, to promote the game.