Mission US: “Flight to Freedom” Immerses Middle School Students in the History of Slavery and Abolition in a New Virtual Experience
Second mission in a series of free online role-playing games gives students a first-person perspective on American history
“Flight to Freedom” launches January 24 at mission-us.org
NEW YORK, Jan. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – THIRTEEN announces the launch of Mission US: “Flight to Freedom,” the second in a series of innovative role-playing games developed to transform the way middle school students learn U.S. history. Launching on January 24, 2012 and timed to support and extend curriculum activities connected to Black History Month in February 2012, “Flight to Freedom” immerses learners in the experiences of a runaway slave in the years before the Civil War. Educators and students can access the game via streaming and download through any Internet-connected computer at www.mission-us.org, making it accessible in the classroom, the library, school technology lab and at home. Mission US is produced by THIRTEEN and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In “Flight to Freedom” players take on the role of Lucy King, a fictional 14-year-old enslaved in Kentucky in 1848. As they navigate her escape and journey to Ohio via the Underground Railroad, they discover that life in the “free” North is dangerous and difficult. Players encounter a diverse group of people – from abolitionists to slave owners – and make decisions that affect the game’s outcome. “Flight to Freedom” helps students learn how enslaved people’s choices – from small, everyday acts of resistance to action that sought an end to slavery – affected the lives of individuals, and ultimately the nation.
“Criticism and empathy are key learning and comprehension attributes, but often elusive goals,” said Christopher Paul Moore, a public historian and researcher at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. “‘Flight to Freedom’ is a masterfully innovative approach to teaching and learning. Anyone who has ever seen young people or adults engaged in video games, but not serious learning, is in for an educational delight.”
“Mission US continues THIRTEEN’s innovative work of harnessing the power of digital media to educate and inspire,” said Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of WNET. “This robust, free learning tool extends public media’s impact in the classroom and beyond.”
In 2011, Education Development Center (EDC) completed a major research study examining the use of Mission US by 1,118 seventh and eighth grade students in 50 schools across the country. The study found measurable gains in students’ historical knowledge and skills, and yielded positive feedback from teachers. A summary of the study’s key findings is available at cpb.org/features/missionus. Mission US is also a featured project of CPB’s “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen” initiative to combat the nation’s dropout crisis.
“For more than 40 years, educators have trusted public media to create programming that connects to students of all ages and helps them learn,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “Now, through our support of Mission US, we are focused on providing that same high-quality content to students, using one of the most popular media in their lives today – interactive, online games – to engage and educate them in American history and civics.”
As students play “Flight to Freedom,” they build knowledge of the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement. Their understanding and critical perception of the historical context deepens through the accompanying curriculum of activities and by examining a robust collection of primary sources such as maps, posters, runaway ads, slave narratives and other materials. Students also interact with the game’s embedded “Smartwords” to build vocabulary and historical literacy skills.
Mission US has been developed to address a pressing need to engage middle school students in American history in more effective ways, getting kids to care about history by seeing it through the eyes of peers from the past. The first game in the series, “For Crown or Colony?” puts players in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston who must decide if his loyalties lie with the Patriots or Loyalists. All of the Mission US games use state-of-the-art gaming technology combined with standards-aligned curriculum concepts to engage and appeal to today’s tech-savvy 21st century learners. The game style and distinctive visual treatments echo the anime style popular with teens and tweens.
“Flight to Freedom,” like all Mission US games, includes a comprehensive collection of resources and materials for educators. These materials include document-based questions (DBQs), a rich collection of primary sources, activities for individual, small group, and whole class implementation, vocabulary builders, standards alignments, writing prompts and visual aids. Teachers can project content from the game using a variety of technology tools such as interactive whiteboards. The game and supporting materials are free and downloadable for use in classrooms, libraries and homes.
The content for “Flight to Freedom” was developed by a team of historians and educators at the renowned American Social History Project (ASHP)/Center for Media & Learning, a research center at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Content developers used award-winning works of scholarship and were advised by Ira Berlin, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland; Nikki Taylor, a historian at the University of Cincinnati and the National Underground Railroad Center; and Christopher Paul Moore. The game’s curriculum was developed by Stanlee Brimberg, a master teacher with 40 years of classroom experience, now coordinator of grades 5-8 at the Bank Street School for Children. The game itself is designed by Electric Funstuff, innovative educational software developers experienced in using game design to create rich learning experiences.
To provide peer-to-peer support for “Flight to Freedom,” PBS member stations across the country are conducting in-depth educator outreach and professional development in their local markets around the effective integration of Mission US into the classroom and curriculum. Additional outreach partners include the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the American Library Association (ALA)/American Association of School Librarians (AASL).
Mission US launched in September of 2010 with its first mission, “For Crown or Colony?” The next two installments of this ongoing series are planned for release in 2013 and 2014. In Mission 3, “The Race for the Golden Spike,” players will take on the role of workers helping to build the transcontinental railroad. In Mission 4, “The Sidewalks of New York,” players will explore early 20th century New York as a muckraking journalist.
Mission US is produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET. Sandra Sheppard, THIRTEEN’s director of Children’s and Educational Programming, is the executive-in-charge. Jill Peters serves as executive producer, with Michelle Chen, coordinating producer.
New York’s WNET is America’s flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Noah Comprende and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through SundayArts, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.
CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operation of more than 1,300 locally-owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.
Additional funding for Mission US is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
SOURCE THIRTEEN/WNET New York