Using voice clips and images from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, JFK Challenge takes kids back in time to be the first person on the moon and to learn about what it is like to volunteer for the Peace Corps. The app is broken into two separate missions: The Peace Corps and The Space Race.
How to Play the Peace Corps Mission
By selecting The Peace Corps option on the opening screen, kids train to become a Peace Corps volunteer, and then go on a mission to Columbia to help construct new buildings and dig waterways to supply clean water.
To train, kids learn Spanish words, match Peace Corps volunteers with locations around the world, practice a time-management game about constructing buildings, and explore a maze game about finding a clean water supply. The time-management game requires that players make cement bricks by quickly combining ingredients, stirring them with their fingers, and then delivering the bricks to two building sites -- all before the time runs out. With the water maze game, kids use their fingers to create a path to clean water using a limited number of digs.
After completing training, the Columbian mission opens up. Now kids replay the two games about constructing buildings and finding water. And a new activity about exploring a Columbian village also opens up. In it, kids tap on people and places to learn more and to see photos and media from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Fly to the Moon as Part of Apollo 11
With The Space Race mission, players start by hearing inspirational words from President Kennedy about why it was important to fly to the moon. Before the mission unlocks, players train about steering a lunar module and practice landing it on the moon. They also learn to dress an astronaut.
The Apollo 11 mission starts with the liftoff of Saturn V, where players help by tapping the screen to disengage thrusters and engines. Next, kids tilt the iPad to avoid debris as they steer the capsule to the moon's surface. As virtual astronauts, players control the right and left fuel controls to try to steady the space craft as it descends to the moon. If you succeed in not crashing the craft, the next activity lets you walk on the moon surface! You have nine hotspots to find, including Neil Armstrong and the American flag that he planted. Kids get to hear the real astronaut Armstrong say "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind…" as well as see photographs taken while on the moon. The mission ends with the space module falling back to earth. After that kids learn about inventions in technology that resulted from the Space Race.
JFK Challenge does an excellent job of placing real photos, sound clips, and other primary source historic media into engaging gameplay to make kids feel as if they have traveled back in time to experience history as it happened. With more than 10 different activities and games, there is a lot for kids to explore.
The main games in each mission are challenging enough that players benefit from the training sessions before taking on the mission. While none of these activities is novel, each feels relevant to the story being told and makes players feel as if they are involved. The landing the space module on the moon is particularly tricky, since the spaceship can easily go into a spin that makes it hard to use thrusters to stabilize. But, with practice, it is something kids can accomplish.
The free JFK Challenge app is a treasure trove of historic gaming for both families and schools. It makes history come alive for kids interested in what President Kennedy accomplished. For kids interested in learning about global volunteering options, this app provides a great introduction to the Peace Corps. And it allows kids to feel the thrill of space exploration, as families did back in the 1960s.
JFK Challenge is best for kids who enjoy learning through simulations and playing games. This app does a brilliant job of weaving historic sound bites of President Kennedy and other historic figures into the gameplay.
This JFK Challenge app review is written by Jinny Gudmundsen.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.