Hero Elementary: Operation Investigation

Learn science basics solo or in groups by figuring out mystery animals

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

Pre-K–2

Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, Science

Price: Free
Platforms: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Pros: There's a focus on collaboration; it's easy for students to work in small groups with one device.

Cons: There are lots of available rounds, but play is always the same.

Bottom Line: This game makes practicing reasoning skills and scientific observation fun -- and collaborative

Use Hero Elementary: Operation Investigation in a science unit about animals or about the scientific method. Have students play in pairs or small groups of up to five. Explain what the six trait icons mean and what the different options are for each trait. Help them solidify learning by having kids keep an off screen record of their investigations. Then, as kids collect different animals, go find out more about them. Look at photos of videos of the animals and emphasize the traits. Expand on the scientific method by talking about observation, comparison, and logical reasoning. Have students look through books or magazines to find photos of animals to add to the collection. Once students find an animal and investigate it to discover its traits, they can prepare a report on what they learned.

Hero Elementary: Operation Investigation is a free app that gets players to investigate animals, compare their traits, and use reasoning skills to find which animal matches a target. The game features characters from the PBS Kids TV series, Hero Elementary. The game begins with a narrated comic-book style story that introduces the premise. Fur Blur the hamster needs an animal sidekick and its the player's (or players') job(s) to find the animal with the traits the Hero Elementary team is looking for. Each round, players can select the number of collaborators (up to five) and the animal traits each player wants to investigate. Then one-by-one players find out about four potential sidekicks. They get info on the animal's texture, weight, habitat, diet, speed, and sleep schedule. Players compare what they know about the target animal's traits with what they learn about the traits to identify an animal out of possible matches. If they get it right the animal gets added to their collection. In the Make section, students can also take a photo of any animal they want and enter its trait data. Go to the Collection section to revisit any of the animals.

Hero Elementary: Operation Investigation is simple, yet appealing -- and it can be an accessible way for young kids to practice fundamental scientific methods. There's some basic info on animals and their traits, but students won't learn a whole lot about animals. The game is more about scientific methods: classifying animals based on their traits, using observations, comparing to a prototype, and using reasoning skills. Though the developers indicate that the multiplayer aspect of the game was meant for parents to use with their kids, it actually makes it easy for teachers to get their students working together in small groups and practicing teamwork. Teachers will probably need to be on-hand though, to help students reason through the game if needed, or explain the trait icons and choices. It's great that students can also add their own animals, which opens up the possibility for teachers to expand on learning about animals and observation. The main downside is that the game is repetitive. Once students have gone through a few rounds, it may start to feel tedious to find all 60 available animals.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

Animals are always a surefire way to get students interested. Familiarity with the TV series helps but isn't necessary.

Pedagogy

Students observe and classify animals according to six defining characteristics. Through a process of elimination, students also use reasoning skills to identify an animal.

Support

An animated intro teaches what the game is all about and a narrator guides students through each step of game play. Students can play in English or Spanish.

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