“Mission US is a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through free interactive games.” I have used parts of it in 7th grade Social Studies class for several years now and have been consistently impressed by the quality of the content and support materials. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for me is deciding which parts of the support material to use because it’s all so good.
This year I decided to incorporate even more than I have in past years so we spent most of the month of December on Mission US: Mission 1, Crown or Colony and the accompanying activities. The support material has a strong focus on perspective. In one of my favorite activities, students read John Godfrey Saxe’s “The Blind Men and the Elephant“. I had students work in groups and each group drew one of the stanzas. We then tried to put the elephant together. This led to a discussion about why the different men “see” such different things as well as why it’s important to have multiple perspectives when you want to see the whole picture.
The support materials also include many primary sources. One of the activities I tried for the first time this year was having the students read four different eyewitness accounts of the Boston Massacre and then drawing their own version of what happened (before I showed them Paul Revere’s engraving). The readings were fairly difficult for 7th grade, but it was helpful to have something specific to focus on, such as who was standing where and who fired a shot. The students created their drawing as if they were Paul Revere, so this also led to a discussion on bias and propaganda.
My students were very engaged by the game and often played it on their own at home and/or play it multiple times. They identified with the characters and had a much better understanding of the events that they “experienced” in the game. This, combined with the quality of the content, has convinced me that gaming can (and will?) have a place in education.
Although I questioned the amount of time we spent on the year 1770, I think my students came away from it with a much deeper understanding of:
- the content (events leading up to the American Revolution)
- one of the essential concepts in history (perspective)
- stronger skills in reading primary source documents.