Earth and Town
One of the best ways to learn about something is to immerse yourself in it. These resources allows students to immerse themselves in a whole city or the planet. Or create a new one.
Real Lives is a unique, interactive life simulation game that enables you to live one of billions of lives in any country in the world.
Through statistically accurate events, the game brings to life different cultures, human geography, political systems, economic opportunities, personal decisions, health issues, family issues, schooling, jobs, religions, geography, war, peace, and more!
The GeoSim site contains modules and databases, primarily for older students.
This project facilitated by U.C. Santa Barbra and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis provides an inquiry-based approach to science that is fun and meaningful. Ecologists and teachers in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria schools are working with 5th grade classes to design and conduct scientific experiments in ecology. Students learn the scientific method by doing it, from experimental design and hypothesis, data gathering and analysis, to reporting results and conclusions.
World Builders includes 11 web-based units with different dimensions of science like astronomy, geology, meteorology, microbiology, botany, zoology, and marine and land ecology. Assessment and note-taking and culling from other links are embedded.
This site is also a great resource for creative writing classes, allowing the student to see the many aspects of creating a world in which their story characters will live.
Maxis (now Electronic Arts) pioneered environmental simulation software for students. The series includes SimEarth, SimCity and, recently, the Sims (probably not appropriate for students).
Each involves constructing a place from scratch with a toolbox of buildings, natural features and roles of inhabitants. As the site grows, student strike a balance between a healthy environment and its citizens' needs. The simulations dramatically illustrate the relationship between cause and effect. For example, the absence of sufficient water supplies or electrical power can doom your city.
All in all, such cool and fun games can stimulate never-ending research projects.