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LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Transformers Rescue Bots: Race to the Rescue
Pros: Interactive animated "lessons" mixed with adventure-filled story
Cons: Constant violence, and no way to track what's actually being learned
Bottom Line: It offers a good blend of learning and gaming about environmental science and first responders, but the violence and lack of assessment features make it a hard sell for classrooms.
Introduce this title during fire safety week or in conjunction with a visit from a first responder. It can also pair nicely with lessons on natural disasters or environmental science units. It's an individual game, so it's best used at recess, during stations, or at a quiet time of day when kids can focus. Do be prepared to talk about safety plans or to reassure kids who may be frightened by the idea of a natural disaster striking at school or home.
LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Transformers Rescue Bots: Race to the Rescue teaches kids about natural phenomena such as heavy rain, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, and lightning. Each of the seven levels focuses on a different natural disaster in which kids help Cody and the Rescue Bots save townspeople, minimize damage, and stop the villain who's behind it all. They'll not only learn about the environmental impact of disasters, but how they affect people and how rescue services help those in need. While preparing for missions, kids will help first responders dress appropriately and choose the right gear. Despite some very clever integration of learning, there's also gameplay targeted just at fun, like leaping platforms, dodging obstacles, and shooting (water hoses, fire, and other objects) at Disaster Bots, all of which adds up to mild but relatively constant violence.
This is a tricky fit for classrooms because it's difficult to measure (in-game) the amount of learning taking place. With no assessment built in, teachers will need to figure out other ways to demonstrate student learning. That said, the educational content is excellent, and kids will certainly take away a lot of information about the natural world, as well as how people handle disaster situations. Because of the fine motor skills required to do all the Mario Bros.-style jumping and dodging, Race to the Rescue will work best with more experienced players or older kids. Make sure to also take a peek at the LeapFrog Learning Path website for activities and printables that complement the game.