How can students get a deeper understanding of the day-to-day challenges of those living in poverty? One way is through a Second Life computer simulation. Second Life is an Internet based 3D Virtual World.  Nursing Professor Chris Vandenhouten, working with Instructional Designer Leif Nelson and student employees Julie Harvey and Kyle MacDonald, created a simulation program that students used to “experience” what it’s like for a family to live on the edge of poverty.

On March 3, 2010, the simulation was used in the Community Health Nursing class with 15 students participating.  Each student was assigned an Avatar, a “person” in a simulated family.  The activity mirrored what it is like to live in poverty for a “month” during which unforeseen events add to the daily stress of life.  The simulation sensitizes individuals to the day to day reality of living in poverty.  It motivates them to become aware and involved in activities and resources which help reduce the effects of poverty in the United States.  The students took time to reflect and de-brief with Dr. Vandenhouten following the simulation. 

Here’s a YouTube link about their project: <>