KET adds another tool to its digital learning initiatives with the release of Mission US’s latest virtual experience, “Flight to Freedom,” a gripping new way for middle school students to experience the Civil War era of U.S. history.
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 (including a church in Lexington), players encounter a diverse group of people, from abolitionists to slave owners, and make decisions that affect the game's outcome.
"Flight to Freedom" is the second in a series of innovative Mission US role-playing games developed to transform how middle school students learn U.S. history. Mission US, which is produced by PBS affiliate Thirteen/WNET and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), first launched in September 2010 with its first mission, “For Crown or Colony?” This experience is set during the Revolutionary War and is aimed and 4th and 5th graders.
KET was one of ten public television stations chosen to participate in a special teacher-training initiative when “For Crown or Colony?” launched. KET’s education consultants traveled the state, providing face-to-face training for the free digital learning tool to more than 2,800 Kentucky teachers.
In fact, by April 2011, Kentucky led the nation in the number of teachers using “For Crown or Colony?” as a teaching tool. And in February 2011, a Kentucky teacher—Laureen Laumeyer, a 5th-grade teacher at Hardin County’s Meadow View Elementary School—was named National Mission US Educator of the Year for her innovative use of the Revolutionary War experience.
“My students were so engrossed in learning that they didn’t want to stop for lunch,” Laumeyer said.
It’s anticipated that students and teachers will have the same reaction to “Flight to Freedom.” The mission was launched on Jan. 24, and KET education consultants are already getting requests from teachers for trainings on the new mission, said Teresa Day, director of arts and special projects at KET.
“Mission US’s role-playing games are such a high-quality resource for Kentucky’s teachers, and they’re a vital part of KET’s digital learning toolbox,” Day says. “They’re a public-television developed game, working with scholars who’ve thoroughly vetted the content. And they’re fun! That’s so important.”
Day says that educators are particularly excited that mission two is partly set in Kentucky, something that may help Kentucky students understand not only the Civil War as a whole, but the state’s role in it, as well.
A 2011 Education Development Center (EDC) study of US Mission’s first installment found measurable gains in students' historical knowledge and skills and yielded positive feedback from teachers who incorporated it into their curriculum.
The next two installments of this ongoing series are planned for release in 2013 and 2014. In mission three, "The Race for the Golden Spike," players will take on the role of workers helping to build the transcontinental railroad. In mission four, "The Sidewalks of New York," players will explore early 20th century New York as a muckraking journalist.
Click here to access Mission US "Flight to Freedom."
More information about KET programming and education services, as well as how to support KET, can be found at ket.org.