Electrifying Whyville: Building A Green Energy Community From the Virtual Ground Up
12.14.10 | Whyville, the virtual world for learning is piloting a new science curriculum called WhyPower designed to teach students about energy production, use and distribution. The project is part of a new direction for the virtual world to encourage teachers to use the virtual space in the classroom.
Through a partnership with DaVinci Minds and funding from the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor, WhyPower includes WhyCareers a career development program designed to teach middle school students about green energy careers through gaming and virtual worlds.
Whyville.net has been around since 1999 and now has more than 5.8 million registered “citizens” age 8 to 15 and is visited by 200,000 unique users per month.
The virtual community has its own elected officials, newspapers, and destinations for learning and exploration like WhyReef, where the virtual citizens can learn about under water ecosystems, and the Great Books Roundhouse, where visitors take part in online book discussions.
Now with this new pilot, Whyville has its very own power grid that uses both traditional and renewable energy sources and is managed by Whyville’s citizens. The students have to select the right mix of coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and solar and wind energy.
Students can configure their own energy efficient houses and earn Whyville clams, the local currency, by collecting wind turbines, solar panels, and by measuring power use in the virtual community. Students can also earn badges by playing various WhyPower games and learning about jobs in the fields of energy and power generation.
“Just like in real life, success in Whyville is not pre-programmed,” creators write on their website. “Students skill, initiative, creativity and teamwork determine the rewards they receive and the ‘virtual money’ they earn in WhyPower.”
WhyCareers includes curriculum units for middle school classrooms that integrate math and science curricula with career development in green technology.
You can get more information and download sample curricular units here.
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