School headlines new teaching program

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Local elementary school students will soon have a new way of learning history.

“Building Detroit,” an online game developed to teach second- through fifth-graders about Detroit’s history and economics by participating in role-playing games, will launch Oct. 25 at the Detroit Histroical Society.

Detroit Historical Society Director of Education Tobi Voight described the game as “Oregon Trail (computer game) meets the game of Life.”

“For the first time ever, the Detroit Historical Society is taking educational programs and putting them online,” she said. “(We want to) reach outside the museum walls and serve students in the Metro area.”

McCollough Elementary School was one of five schools in the metropolitan Detroit area chosen to take part in the testing program. McCollough Elementary School third grade teacher Cynthia Alvarado played an important role in developing the game, which will debut in the fall at the museum.

Voight said Alvarado was one of a group of core pilot teachers who volunteered to help with the planning and development of the game. She said when the final draft is developed, a survey will be created to determine if any more improvements will be needed.

The game was developed through grants provided by the Community Fund for Southeast Michigan. Voight said it takes players through five time periods in Detroit’s history, from the 1750s through the 1890s, with the surroundings and the advances in technology that accompany the changing years.

The goal of the game is to help students understand how the city has changed through time, Voight said.

“The characters are people who live in Detroit,” she said. “They are choosing an occupation and deciding where to move their business.”

Alvarado did not respond to phone calls seeking comment for this story.

The game will launch on the Detroit Historical Society website,

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at