Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2018
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PBS KIDS Kart Kingdom

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Lively, colorful exploration app teaches strategy, tool-making

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math
  • Science

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1–4
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Pros: Lots of play and learning potential, fun gameplay, teamwork with other players.

Cons: Leaving the app requires players to redo some of their in-game work.

Bottom Line: Exploration, resource gathering, and crafting will teach students how systems work while they have fun navigating the world.

Assign PBS KIDS Kart Kingdom for students to use in the classroom or at home, and follow up in the classroom with questions about their game experiences. What needed to be done to craft new gadgets? How were the gadgets helpful in completing quests? How did students use teamwork to solve problems?

After everyone has had a chance to play the game sufficiently, talk about other kinds of systems in your students' lives, such as sprinkler systems, bicycles, or even students' own bodies, and discuss how all of the parts work together to make things happen. What are some of the components in each system? What important role does each component serve? Then encourage them to create their own systems for solving problems.

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PBS KIDS Kart Kingdom is an explorable world in which kids can complete quests, craft new gadgets, play mini-games, design their own custom karts, and work together with other players to make new things. There are no subscriptions or in-app purchases in this online world, and interactions with other players are restricted to pre-written comments. Players do need to sign in to play, however.

Within the game, students move their character and kart around the screen, picking up resources as they move left and right, jump, and use other maneuvers. Once students work through the tutorial, they can dive into one of the game's 16 quests. Here they collect resources to build gadgets, such as bunches of balloons or bunny rabbits, which help them travel to new areas to collect new resources. There are in-world themed events that keep the play fresh, and the Field Guide keeps track of gadgets, parts, power-ups, and finds, which is perfect for completionists. If students leave the game and come back to it, however, they may need to redo some of their work to get back to where they left off.

Somewhat out of place -- but adding to the play options -- is a game area with 10 mini-games featuring characters from several PBS KIDS shows, such as Arthur, the Wild Kratts, Cat in the Hat, Fizzy's Lunch Lab, and Plum Landing.

Students will learn systems thinking -- while planning and strategizing -- in PBS KIDS Kart Kingdom, since particular resources are required to build certain gadgets, which are in turn required to traverse new areas of the map. They can exercise their creativity by building their own custom kart parts, and practice teamwork by collaborating with other players to construct gadgets. Constructing items in the game out of found resources helps students learn how systems are created and how parts function together for a common purpose. They learn the very basics of engineering by learning about the relationships between parts within larger systems.

There's plenty of gameplay in Kart Kingdom, which gives students almost endless opportunity to become experts in setting and achieving goals, working as part of a team, and expressing their individual style.

Overall Rating

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

Students are free to explore the game's environment, and collecting resources for quests, designing their own karts, working with others, and playing mini-games keep them hooked within the app.

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

Students must strategically gather the resources required to build gadgets, allowing them to complete quests. They can also craft other kinds of items on their own, or through teamwork with other players.

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

The app guides new users through the basics, and the in-app and website-based help can answer any questions that arise. Students are also able to keep track of their unlocked gadgets, power-ups, kart parts, and finds.


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