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Mission US: "Revolutionary" Web Initiative Takes Young Learners on a Virtual Adventure into American History

By Michelle Michalos
Friday, September 17th, 2010
  • comments (7)

Teens and tweens across the country can now experience American history as never before. Mission US features a series of free online games that will “revolutionize” the way social studies learning takes place in classrooms and homes throughout the United States. On September 21, THIRTEEN launched the first game mission, “For Crown or Colony?,” which focuses on events leading up to the American Revolution. The game, together with a rich variety of supplemental resources for students and teachers, is available for streaming and download at www.mission-us.org. This groundbreaking initiative is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Preview Mission US here:

Statistics from the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress show that only 17% of eighth graders perform at or above the proficient level in American history. The situation is even worse for underserved students. Mission US aims to stem the tide by reaching today’s tech-savvy kids where they live, online, inviting them to be “players” during pivotal eras in the country’s past. The content helps students understand and appreciate multiple perspectives and gain a more nuanced view of history. “For Crown or Colony?” provides kids with insight into the mindsets of both Patriots and Loyalists.

“This innovative offering – available free online – is designed to serve a teen and tween audience that grew up watching outstanding kids’ programs on PBS.” said Neal Shapiro, WNET.ORG president and CEO. “Mission US builds on THIRTEEN’s pioneering work in harnessing the power of new digital media for education.” “Using the most popular medium in kids’ lives today, Mission US gets students interested in learning about history by allowing them to experience dramatic historical events as if they were there,” said Patricia de Stacy Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Mission US uses the conventions and design style of commercial games popular with middle school students. The project website offers fun mini-games and the opportunity to submit user-generated videos.

Mission 1: “For Crown or Colony?” helps players understand the social, political, and economic conflicts that led to the American Revolution. Players take on the role of Nathaniel Wheeler, a young printer’s apprentice, who must carry out tasks for his master while confronting Bostonians’ clashing views on British authority and colonial protest. In five episodes of game play, students choose a path that culminates in the Boston Massacre. In its aftermath, the player determines Nat’s fate by taking a stand – supporting the Patriot cause or remaining loyal to the Crown.

Teachers who participated in classroom tests of “For Crown or Colony?” reported that students were more intellectually and emotionally engaged during the Mission US unit than in the typical unit they teach. It helped their students see the events leading to the American Revolution in more human terms that they could understand.

Game content is informed by the latest scholarship. The development team includes historians from the American Social History Project (ASHP) at CUNY, researchers from Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology (CCT), and game developers from Electric Funstuff.

Each of the dynamic games in THIRTEEN’s Mission US series challenges players to take on the role of a young character living through a significant time in American history. Mission 2, “Flight to Freedom” (working title), which focuses on resistance to slavery, will launch in spring of 2011. Other missions, as well as a broadcast special, are planned for release in 2012.

Mission US is produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. Sandra Sheppard, THIRTEEN’s director of Children’s and Educational Programming, is the executive-in-charge. Jill Peters is the executive producer. Michelle Chen is the coordinating producer.

Mission US in the classroom:

  • Daniel Sheahan

    Well, thank you THIRTEEN, for FINALLY using T.V. intelligently: the way kids use it for their own entertainment.
    This intuitive (but no less intelligent) approach finally brings us closer to the using of T.V. for classroom purposes as it always should have been used: in the most illustrative way possible. With the long overdue advent of this kind of programming, T.V. can become the teaching tool it was always supposed to be.
    Now, how about the same kind of programming aimed at adults? I’d bet the response would surprise you.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

  • mary murphy

    Excellent!! Mission US enables the students to put the events into a broader context. The players are invited to make choices, reflect, and then integrate the events into a meaninful experience. BRAVO!!!

  • Shirley Pouget

    This is a hands on, role playing experience that will surely excite youngsters and encourage them to “take part” in their history and will bring American History and our great heritage to life! The game developers from Electric Funstuff put their finger on the pulse as to what was needed to shake up our educational learning and bring us into the the 21st Century with this fascinating Virtual Adventure into American History. Kudos to them and the researchers from CCT and historians from ASHP at CUNY who brought this to fruition!

  • afroza

    when will mission 2 come out???????????????????????????????????

  • Rachel Burris-Nikolopoulos

    My children & I love this website and had lots of fun acting out the roles on the computer and going through the game… We only wish that there were more missions already and other games such as these for all levels…
    Thanks for some very fun & educational alternitives to the other gaming systems out there….

  • Lianna

    I just finished Mission 1(“For Crown or Colony?”) and I love it. Now I want to do Mission 2(if there is one)!

  • Charlotte

    This is a exellent game! I really enjoyed playing this game.Is there a mission 2 coming out I think we should have more than 1 or 2