Common Sense Review
Updated July 2013

Disaster Hero

Fun way to teach FEMA disaster guidelines
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 3
  • Kids play through various mini-games as they learn about disaster preparedness.
  • There are different mini-games for each type of natural disaster.
  • The game is set in a cool "sci-fi" environment.
  • Kids compete against computer-controller opponents, and must defeat them in order to progress.
  • One mini-game involves spotting the disaster preparedness items that are missing from a picture.
Pros
The authoritative FEMA guidelines coupled with a fun sci-fi setting, makes this free game a winner.
Cons
Disaster Hero isn't good for playing as a group and its learning isn't as baked in as it could be.
Bottom Line
This sci-fi-themed online game makes learning disaster preparedness fun through a series of missions and mini-games.
Mark Raby
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Kids engage in a series of mini-games that are only loosely connected to the educational content. However, there are sleek graphics, a captivating hero character, and a motivation to accomplish all the activities.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Where this game excels is in providing kids with a sense of empowerment. If they complete the game, they will know the recommended steps for planning for, anticipating, and responding to a natural disaster.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Disaster Hero offers three different levels of difficulty, from the 1st grade through the 8th grade. Kids are encouraged throughout the experience until they can complete each activity.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

If there is a scheduled tornado drill or other form of disaster drill, teachers can prepare kids first by letting them play through this game. Teachers could require their students to complete all the missions and print out the certificate, which they could then take home. Additionally, for teachers who have a weather unit or curricula that include talking about previous natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, Disaster Hero can augment that discussion to give kids a sense of what they can do if something similar ever happens where they live. 

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What's It Like?

The first thing kids will do in this game is create their own avatar hero. They are then whisked away to a futuristic game show-style setting where the valiant leader, Dante Shields, instructs them to complete all the different missions. Each mission is connected to a specific tyle of disaster. For example, in one mission, players are shown two versions of the same room and must find which room is missing the appropriate disaster preparedness items (e.g., an emergency kit, extra food for their pets, a list of emergency contact numbers). Other missions have gameplay that is slightly disconnected from the learning content. One mission involves clicking on objects that appear on the screen. After clicking an object, a multiple-choice question about disaster preparedness appears. As they progress through the missions, they are constantly encouraged by Dante and rewarded with various badges for their performance. After kids complete every mission, they receive a printable certificate that denotes them as a "Disaster Hero."

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Is It Good For Learning?

This game was developed in partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The content and learnings come directly from FEMA's federally approved guidelines for disaster preparedness and response. For the purpose of teaching this specific information to kids, this game does a successful job. The graphics are crisp and high-resolution, and the science fiction setting makes it appealing as a game. While the connection between the gameplay and the learning material is not always well constructed, this game provides a fun and interesting way to learn these important skills and tips.

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