Friday, May 27, 2011

New Social Studies Interactives: Mission US and Life Without the Bill of Rights

This Spring, our fifth graders are introduced to the American Revolution in their Social Studies classes. They even have an overnight trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Each year, I do my best to help integrate technology into their studies and I am really excited about two new online tools, both discovered thanks to Learning and Leading with Technology.

Mission US is a free, online role playing game in which students act as either loyalists or patriots in 1770 Boston, Massachusetts. They act as apprentices and interact with locals, being asked to choose sides as tensions rise. Our fifth graders ADORED this activity. They were constantly getting up to go visit each others' characters and discuss what should be done. Teachers can even manage classes and track student progress through the game. Students can play at home if the teacher sets it up that way--and our students certainly did. There is a classroom guide with ideas for multimedia projects and other classroom activities. I knew it was a hit when the Social Studies teacher said that the kids were bringing up connections in his class, a la "Oh, like in Mission US!"
The next resource is "Life Without The Bill of Rights" from the Bill of Rights Institute. In this free click-and-explore game, students imagine what life might be like if there were no, say, freedom of speech in America. It's not anywhere near as engaging as Mission US since the kids cannot make choices, but it is a graphic representation to which they can connect, something that may be difficult when just reading about, say "freedom to petition." It clarifies some of the more nebulous rights.

I'll be using these again next year.

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