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Headlines and High Water

Play as a young journalist covering events as they unfold in the fictional town of Twin Lakes. Made in partnership with UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication with funding from the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

At a Glance

In Headlines and High Water, players take on the role of a young journalist in the fictional town of Twin Lakes, where the annual Cherry Festival is thrown into chaos by a catastrophic flood. The player is tasked with interviewing locals and writing stories to keep the town informed—all while staying safe during the town’s worst flood of the century.

Throughout the game, players build trust with the townspeople and interview a cast of quirky characters—like Birdie, the aptly-named nature conservationist, and Fred Finkler, the gardener who’ll talk your ear off. In the end, the player’s reporting will determine if Twin Lakes is still around a year from now, or if future floods wash the town right off the map.

Target Audience

  • Grades 6-9

Content Areas

  • Journalism
  • Media Literacy
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts


The game includes six levels. Each level takes approximately 10-20 minutes to play. Most players can complete the game in 2, 45-minute class periods, but Players can save their progress and return to the game, making it usable within a typical classroom context.


In this text-based, choose-your-adventure style game, players take on the role of a journalist in the small town of Twin Lakes. When a major flood hits, the player must write news stories for every stage of the disaster:

  • Breaking news stories that communicate urgent, life-saving information to the public
  • Science-based pieces about flood causes and prevention
  • Equity-focused stories that examine equity issues and possible solutions

By covering these topics, players learn what components are required for different types of stories. They gather quotes, facts, photos, statistics, diagrams, and anecdotes. After each story, players receive a score based on the quality and breakdown of their piece, and they see (through art and feedback) how their story affected people in the town.

Learning Goals

Media Literacy

The Journalism Game includes crosscutting concepts and can be used for teaching science and media literacy. The third and fourth news stories, in particular, focus on the scientific study of flooding, watersheds, and climate change, while the game as a whole introduces players to the process of fact-finding and how journalistic knowledge is created. Players learn about what goes into crafting a news story, including:

  • Interviews with experts
  • Interviews with bystanders/citizens
  • Online research
  • Making on-site observations
  • Fact checking with credentialed experts

Through their choices, players can also witness the consequences of cutting corners and failing to check their sources, ranging from losing public trust to getting fired from their job.

Science Content

This game, and especially the third and fourth news stories, explores topics of flooding, urban planning, wetlands, and climate change. Players learn about the factors that have contributed to flooding in the fictional town of Twin Lakes. This includes the impact of wetland destruction and increased rainfall brought on by climate change. In the course of writing their stories, the player character interviews limnology professors and researchers, DNR experts, and wetland experts and conservationists.

Academic Standards

Social Studies [Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies]

  • Content Area: Social Studies Inquiry Practices and Processes (Inq): Inquiry Practices and Processes can and should be used within all social studies disciplines and, as such, is an “umbrella strand” covering all content strands.
    • Standard SS.Inq3: Wisconsin students will develop claims using evidence to support reasoning. SS.Inq3.c: Elaborate how evidence supports a claim. SS.Inq3.c.m Analyze the extent to which evidence supports or does not support a claim, and if it does not, adjust claim appropriately.
    • Standard SS.Inq3: Wisconsin students will develop claims using evidence to support reasoning. Inq3.b: Cite evidence from multiple sources to support a claim. SS.Inq3.b.m Support a claim with evidence from multiple reliable sources representing a range of media (electronic, digital, print, and other mass media).
    • Standard SS.Inq4 Wisconsin students will communicate and critique conclusions. Inq4.b: Critique conclusions [SS.Inq4.b.m] Analyze and evaluate the logic, relevance, and accuracy of others’ claims, taking into consideration potential bias.
  • Content Area: Geography (Geography)
    • Geog5.a: Human environment interaction. SS.Geog5.a.m Analyze how technology interacts with the environment and how increased use of technology affects the burden and use of natural resources.

Science Standards [Wisconsin Standards for Science]

  • Science: Crosscutting Concepts (CC) — Systems and System Models [SCI.CC4.m] Students understand systems may interact with other systems: they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.
  • Science: Crosscutting Concepts (CC) — Stability and Change [SCI.CC7.m] Students explain stability and change in natural or designed systems by examining changes over time, and considering forces at different scales, including the atomic scale. They understand changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part, systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms, and stability might be disturbed by either sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.
  • Science: Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) — Analyze and Interpret Data [SCI.SEP4.m] Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for explanations of phenomena.
  • Science: Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) — Construct Explanations and Design Solutions [SCI.SEP6.A.m] Students construct explanations supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.
  • Science: Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) — Earth and Space Science 2 (ESS2) – Earth’s Systems - Weather and Climate [SCI.ESS2.D.m] Complex interactions determine local weather patterns and influence climate, including the role of the ocean.
  • Science: Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) — Earth and Space Science 3 (ESS3) – Earth and Human Activity - Natural Hazards [SCI.ESS3.B.m] Patterns can be seen through mapping the history of natural hazards in a region and understanding related geological forces.
  • Science: Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) — Earth and Space Science 3 (ESS3) – Earth and Human Activity - Human Impacts on Earth Systems [SCI.ESS3.C.m] Human activities have altered the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere which in turn has altered the biosphere.