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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Building Detroit




Detroit Historical Society







 home pageBuilding Detroit: home page


One family. Five generations. Countless ways to build a city.


 Game level introBuilding Detroit: Game level intro"Building Detroit" offers three ways to explore Detroit history. The centerpiece is the game, "Building Detroit," which employs an economics simulation (a semi-feudal system in the first level, then capitalism for the rest) as a platform for weaving together historical events and  trends. Starting as French immigrants in 1750, players try to make a living as farmers in New France. Subsequent levels span 150 years of Detroit history as the city grows into a major industrial center. In each level, players take on the role of one of their children from the previous level, deciding whom to marry, what work to do, and how to educate their children, all based on the options facing people of each time period. Every decision has consequences, giving players a lasting memory of what it might have been like to have lived in the historic times that shaped Detroit. 


Building Detroit; TimelineBuilding Detroit; TimelineComplementing and extending the game are two other features of the website. A timeline of Detroit history provides a wealth of historical data coupled with relevant primary sources. And an in-depth curriculum for third and fourth grades, rich with primary sources from the collections, encourages students to interact, synthesize and think critically about history.  Taken as a whole, the site provides tools for educators to teach 21st century skills (such as critical thinking and personal economics) as well as hit key standards and benchmarks in social studies and English language arts instruction. 


While a formal evaluation is underway, the response from our primary audience of Detroit teachers and students has been extremely positive. Teachers in grades 3 through 12 are using the game with their classes. James Fisher, a fifth grade teacher in Grosse Pointe, MI, remarked, "I have been playing Building Detroit and think it's fantastic.  I showed the kids this morning and they are eager to get to the lab today to try it out themselves.  Building Detroit; Choices in the gameBuilding Detroit; Choices in the gameMany GLCES [Grade Level Content Expectations] are in it!" Katie Hearn, a high school teacher in Clarkston, MI, said, "The juniors and seniors in my Michigan history class had a great time playing the game.  They got into the economics aspects of the game, and were competing against each other to build the best city." 


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