I just got off the phone with a high school government teacher who was looking for a way to have kids learn/review state and federal powers. That conversation eventually led to back to my Delicious account and some of my video game favorites.
I had forgotten about a great sim that we used several years ago called The Redistricting Game:
The Redistricting Game is designed to educate, engage, and empower citizens around the issue of political redistricting. Currently, the political system in most states allows the state legislators themselves to draw the lines. This system is subject to a wide range of abuses and manipulations that encourage incumbents to draw districts which protect their seats rather than risk an open contest.
By exploring how the system works, as well as how open it is to abuse, The Redistricting Game allows players to experience the realities of one of the most important (yet least understood) aspects of our political system. The game provides a basic introduction to the redistricting system, allows players to explore the ways in which abuses can undermine the system, and provides info about reform initiatives – including a playable version of the Tanner Reform bill to demonstrate the ways that the system might be made more consistent with tenets of good governance. Beyond playing the game, the web site provides a wealth of information about redistricting in every state as well as providing hands-on opportunities for civic engagement and political action.
Basically, players are asked to decide new congressional district boundaries in a variety of ways using authentic characters and situations. Seems a bit tame but kids do enjoy the give and take (and the winning and losing!) of finding ways of getting what they want and solving problems.
And yes . . . it is a very specific example of state vs. federal powers but because of the power of the simulation, kids get a nice emotional connection to the concept. There are also some nice teacher resources and ideas.
The added bonus? It’s fun!