Curriculum» 21 st Century Skills

River City and 21 st Century Skills

The report from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2002), Learning for the 21st Century: A Report and Mile Guide for 21st Century Skills, lists six key elements for fostering 21st Century Learning. River City maps on to all six of these standards.

1. Emphasize Core Subjects

  • Biology

  • Earth Science

  • Ecology

  • Epidemiology

  • History

2. Emphasize Learning Skills

Information &
Communication Skills

As students collect data in River City, they will need to analyze, manage, evaluate and communicate information in a variety of formats.

Thinking &
Problem-Solving Skills

River City guides students through making complex choices and understanding the interactions amongst the system that is the River City world. Students work toward solving the problem of disease-spread, and communicate their ideas to the Mayor of River City.

Interpersonal &
Self-Directional Skills

Exploring River City is done individually, requiring students to monitor their progress in data collection. As part of a team, students must utilize collaboration skills in order to be successful with River City tasks.

3. Use 21 st Century Tools to develop Learning Skills

ICT Literacy


River City harnesses the power of some of the most innovative technologies (many of which are being used by students both in and out of school), developing skills for interacting with and implementing these technologies.

Information & Communication Technologies

  • Multi-User Virtual Environments
  • Online data recording
  • Simulations
  • Online chat

4. Teach and learn in a 21 st Century Context

  1. Make content relevant to students' lives

  2. Bring the world into the classroom

  3. Take students out into the world

  4. Create opportunities for students to interact with each other, with teachers, and with other knowledgeable adults

Although River City takes place in the late 1800s, students are dealing with content that is relevant to their own lives, such as disease transmission; and is relevant to current events, such as disease outbreak in relation to Bird Flu and SARS.

The collaborative design of River City allows students to interact with peers and adults, both real and simulated.

5. Teach and learn 21 st Century Content

Global Awareness


Financial, Economic, &
Business Literacy


Civic Literacy

The hypotheses and experiments students construct must be (1) realistic, (2) socially responsible, and (3) help to get the mayor reelected.

By becoming a part of the River City community as an avatar, students not only get to examine “community” at a smaller scale, but they develop a sense of participation in this community by trying to persuade the mayor in a means for controlling the spread of disease in the city.

6. Use 21 st Century Assessments that measure 21 st Century Skills


A balance of multiple formats of assessments to measure the full range of students' skills in a timely way and provide immediate feedback to help students learn.

The embedded assessments in River City provide immediate and valuable information to the student and teacher about student understanding of concepts being explored in River City. This information can be used to scaffold instruction through the MUVE. At the end of the River City implementation, students demonstrate their understanding and skills through a performance assessment in the form of a recommendation letter to the Mayor of River City.


Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2002). Learning for the 21st century: A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Washington, DC: Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

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.