Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2018
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Space Chef

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Nutrition game presents healthy foods and good habits, little else

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science
  • Health & Wellness

Skills
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3–6
Common Sense says (See details)
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Pros: Game has a fun look, is easy to learn, and promotes healthy eating.

Cons: "Normal" mode is too fast to be useful; most of the learning is separate from the gameplay, and the real recipes lack images.

Bottom Line: Space Chef introduces students to healthy ingredients and recipes in a fun way, but important facts and rationales are separate from the game itself.

Teachers can use Space Chef as a fun introduction to nutritious ingredients and recipes for elementary students. Playing the game introduces students to foods they may not be familiar with, and that can lay the foundation for in-class cooking, trying out new meals with their families at home, and healthy nutrition units for health or science classes. Start students on the Easy level of the game, however, and only move students to Normal mode if they need the added challenge of furious speed.

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Space Chef is a fast-paced game that hopes to teach students about nutrition, healthy recipes, and different kinds of food. Made by The Lawrence Hall of Science, the app also includes factoids about healthy ingredients, role models who choose healthy food options, and dozens of actual recipes for meals that students, teachers, and families can enjoy. Play the game by swiping healthy ingredients that match the current recipe to the middle beam, and then swipe them upward toward Space Chef (or one of the other unlocked robots), who will make them into nutritious meals. Swiping correct ingredients will add time to the clock, while swiping incorrect ingredients or running out of time will end the game. Unneeded ingredients can be swiped downward on the side beams. There are no real levels through which to progress, merely things to unlock and stated missions to complete.

Quick thinking and quick fingers are required to play this game, especially in Normal mode. The Easy mode goes at a better speed for learning and unlocking additional app features. Space Chef includes a section for parents or other adults, but typing in the mathematical password doesn't take you anywhere.

Space Chef does have some educational value: Students can learn about many foods that are nutritious, along with new and interesting combinations of those foods that they can implement in their own lives. But the gameplay itself is more about quickly matching food shapes to requested recipes than about learning why certain foods are nutritious. Students must explore other parts of the app and try out recipes at home or in the classroom to come away with a good sense of how to make healthy food choices. All recipes used in the app were modeled after the recipe collection at the "What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl" website, so they are nutritionally sound.

Once students have played Space Chef for a while, they unlock factoids that explain food facts. Unlocking role models shows them how to make healthy food choices and improve how they feel. But the app still doesn't go into depth about why certain foods are healthy and how good nutrition improves overall health.

Overall Rating

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

The game looks cute from the start and will pull students in with cartoony foods and happy robots, but the fun may be short-lived with repetitive gameplay and sometimes sensitive controls.

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

Playing the game well relies more on efficiency and quick fingers than on learning nutrition facts. Students will need to make an effort to peruse the reference parts of the app and website to learn the healthy lessons.

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

Students can see how many robots, role models, and factoids they've unlocked, along with a few other game stats. The in-game recipes, along with a few additional resources on the website, bring some learning into the home or classroom.


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