Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Mission US

Mission US

Spring 2016 Website
Ages: 9 - 15 yrs.
Publisher: Thirteen/WNET

Mission US invites players to explore important turning points in American history through the eyes of an average person of the times. At present, there are four missions: an apprentice boy in Revolution-era Boston, a slave girl in 1848 Kentucky, a Cheyenne boy on the plains in 1886, and a Russian Jewish immigrant girl in New York in 1907. Players see the world through the main character's eyes and interact with the people in the character's life, making challenging decisions that culminate in turning points -- will they focus on family, friends, community, courage?

The stories are gripping. They cover long time periods, from months to years. There are many paths through, not all of them successful; the Underground Railroad, for example, is a difficult journey, and the game reflects that. Players earn badges for the choices they make (and pick up points for the new vocabulary they acquire along the way). Each mission takes about an hour and a half to play straight through, but players can spend many more hours immersing themselves in the world of the missions. As they learn about the era, they can step aside and play the "Think Fast" quizzes to pick up some additional trivia. (Technical note: we found that the "Think Fast" quizzes did not work when we were "logged in" so we could neither save our scores nor check the leaderboard. We hope this bug is fixed soon.)

For educators wishing to include this in a classroom or homeschool setting, there is a plethora of resources on the site. There are games and activities, discussion and essay prompts, timelines, dozens of primary sources, and more. In our experience it took little prompting to get children interested and keep them engaged; once they discovered the complexity of the games, they jumped in with enthusiasm, playing all missions; they had many questions and were eager for even more to learn, the sign of a truly educational experience.

Emily Crawford   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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