Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Experience American History with Mission US, a Free Online Resource for Kids (Plus, a Video Contest!)

I have always loved learning about history. Why? First, it’s fascinating! I love to read stories about people who existed in the past, to learn how they lived and what happened during their time. In many cases, these true-life stories make for more interesting reading than anything we can make up. Second, I think the old adage is true: If we don’t know about the past, we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes. We can learn a lot from those who went before us. Why not benefit from their experiences? This is so important for kids, and yet the National Assessment of Educational Progress, “The Nation’s Report Card,” shows that only 17% of eighth graders perform at or above the proficient level in American history. I really believe this is something that needs to change.

One way to improve this statistic is to read history-based books with our children and encourage older children to read them on their own. Another way to teach history is through online games. My high-schooler loves history-based video games and has become surprisingly well-informed about the past. I recently learned about another option: Mission US. At Mission US, tweens and teens can find a fun series of free online games that could “revolutionize” the way they learn about US history. The first game, "For Crown or Colony?," just launched and focuses on events leading up to the American Revolution.

They’re also holding a very cool contest at Mission US. Just like Nat Wheeler, the young apprentice protagonist in "For Crown or Colony?" who shares his experience of the Boston Massacre, kids are encouraged to share how they see their own place in history by creating and submitting a video. Topics might include a story from their family’s past, a historical person, place, or event connected to their hometown, or how themes in history (like injustice, protest, freedom) connect to their lives today. They can upload their video at www.mission-us.org/pages/video-submission and become eligible to win a $100 Visa gift card! The deadline for entry is December 15, 2010.

In addition to traveling through the past with your kids via Mission US, here are some tips on how to have fun and learn about history together:

  • Make a movie! Work with your kids to create videos about history in their lives, such as their hometown or family history. (Then submit it to the contest mentioned above!)
  • Get cooking! Visit the library and find books about colonial (or even Civil War) cooking and get a real “taste” of history by trying out an authentic recipe or two.
  • Learn about history firsthand! Have kids interview senior citizens in your town to learn about how they’ve lived through important eras of their country’s past.
  • Go explore! Check out the historical sites in your area. You can look for information at your local visitors’ center or do some digging online.
  • Plant a family tree! Map your own family history with your kids, going back as far as possible. Figure out how your own story intersects with American history.
Finally, I hope you’ll check out Mission US with your kids. If you’re a teacher, this makes a great free resource for the classroom! It’s a win-win situation for everyone: Kids will have fun and you’ll love that they’re learning about history!


Mission US website: www.mission-us.org
Mission US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MissionUS
Mission US on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Mission_US

DISCLOSURE: No compensation of any kind was exchanged for this post.


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