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Introducing River City

Welcome to River City!

Welcome to the River City Research Project. With funding from the National Science Foundation, we have developed an interactive computer simulation for middle grades science students to learn scientific inquiry and 21st century skills. River City has the look and feel of a videogame but contains content developed from National Science Education Standards, National Educational Technology Standards, and 21st Century Skills.

The Future of River City (Updated 6/17/2009)

Activeworlds, Inc. is currently in licensing negotiations with Harvard University regarding the future of River City. Activeworlds, Inc. is the vendor who developed the virtual world platform that River City utilizes. They are also currently responsible for the day-to-day hosting of the environment, and have proposed a plan that will keep River City alive and well during the upcoming school year.

Activeworlds has a long history of working to enable teachers and schools with easily accessible and stable virtual worlds since 1995. From our discussions with many teachers involved in River City the program has been a valuable tool for reaching students and we want to make sure that it continues.

The plan would mean that Activeworlds would continue supporting and administering all servers and programs currently being run. There would be no loss of service and continued and new enrollments would be accepted. Activeworlds would also pursue a plan to upgrade the Website and the world, utilizing features available in more recent releases of their platform. They would need to start right away.

Now the part where we ask you to help:

As you are likely aware, River City was developed under certain grants and its funding runs out in August 2009. We appreciate that existing participants are currently using River City in exchange for research results but in August the need for this research will cease.

Yet, many of you have expressed a desire to continue your classes and many others have applied for the 2009-2010 school year. Activeworlds’ plan will make this possible, but for this to work River City needs to become a financially self-sustaining program. Activeworlds is certain that this is achievable and is committed to making it happen.

There would need to be either a nominal per student fee or a site license for participating schools. This cost has yet to be determined, but our goal is to make sure that as many as possible can benefit from the program. Educators should investigate whether they are eligible for funding such as Title 1, IDEA or other methods. Additionally, by moving to this model many teachers and students who have previously not been eligible due to the research requirements might now be able to take advantage of this outstanding teaching tool.

Activeworlds is requesting all interested participants as well as new applicants to respond directly to them so they can gauge your interest and whether their plan is feasible. They are working to resolve this in a timely manner so that River City can continue.

Please respond at your earliest convenience to education@activeworlds.com

Introducing River City

As visitors to River City, students travel back in time, bringing their 21st century skills and technology to address 19th century problems. Based on authentic historical, sociological, and geographical conditions, River City is a town besieged with health problems. Students work together in small research teams to help the town understand why residents are becoming ill. Students use technology to keep track of clues that hint at causes of illnesses, form and test hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and make recommendations based on the data they collect, all in an online environment.

Since the River City Project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, access to the simulation, curricular materials, professional development, and just-in-time assistance are provided free of charge to schools. Our current grant is exploring issues of scale –– bringing River City to diverse schools across the United States, Canada and Mexico –– and we are always looking to collaborate with like-minded educators.

Is River City Right for You?

All middle grades (6-9) teachers in North America are invited to participate in the River City Project. Although we traditionally work with science teachers, we have worked with social studies, math, and language arts teachers with much success. Visit our page, “Is River City Right for You?” to take your first steps toward implementing River City with your students.

As you explore our website, please feel free to email the Research Team at rivercity.support@gmail.com with questions and comments or if you would like to get involved.

- The River City Research Team

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 9980464, 0296001, 0202543, 0310188, and 0532446. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.