Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015
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JFK Challenge

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Got the right stuff? Land on the moon, volunteer with the Peace Corps

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-5
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5 images

Pros: Fun images, amusing games, and solid historical content bring JFK's presidency to life.

Cons: While games can be amusing, they won't inspire deep or detailed insights.

Bottom Line: A fun way to explore and extend topics from your history classroom.

While the games aren't inherently educational, there's lots of potential for extension and enrichment. Use the Space Race Mission to talk about the historical context of the Cold War or the science behind the multi-stage rocket, the boosters on the Lunar Module, and the materials of the space suit. Use the Peace Corps mission to discuss that program's historical context, its continuing work, and its significance. The intro video and the biography are also good resources on President Kennedy's life; use these to introduce or extend your class's exploration of this time period, and have kids compete to see who can score the highest on each of the challenges.

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Produced by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, JFK Challenge introduces users to President Kennedy's story through audio clips and images and then lets kids complete games and activities that explore two of the president's key initiatives: the Peace Corps and the Space Race. The app supports up to three student profiles per device. Kids choose their mission, watch a brief historical video, and embark on a series of simple challenges. They must earn points in each challenge in order to move on to the next one. For example, the Peace Corps mission has kids train to volunteer in Colombia by learning a few key Spanish words, learning to dig a waterway, and building a house. Kids finally explore a map that shows other volunteers' locations around the world. The info section includes a longer biography of President Kennedy and an introduction to the JFK Library.

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From the dynamic, animated text of the president's speeches to the cartoon lines of the Apollo space suit, JFK Challenge evokes the visual style of the early 1960s but looks fresh and modern, too. The games are interesting and amusing, and between stages of each game, kids can learn key facts, like what each stage of the Saturn V rocket does. Since the app was created by the JFK Library, there's a clearly positive perspective on the president's time in office (the Cuban Missile Crisis and other tense moments aren't featured prominently), but the tone and content seem appropriate for the age range.

While the app features good content, gameplay won't necessarily promote learning. Users don't do much more than tap and tilt; even the very-brief Spanish lesson that starts the Peace Corps mission is a basic, low-consequence matching game. Learning isn't baked into these games, though they hint at larger insights about physics and social studies. Overall, this is an amusing tool for exploring President Kennedy's achievements and playing some related games along the way.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Who doesn't want to go to the moon? The Space Race mission may be more fun than the Peace Corps mission, but the great visual style will keep kids engaged throughout.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

While the historical info is solid, gameplay isn't inherently educational. Still, the text and images are rich enough to provoke interest and extend classroom learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Gameplay is straightforward enough, though some of the steering games can be tough to control. Good FAQs offer helpful tips. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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