I am a big fan of learning in the summertime. It really doesn't matter what, to be honest. If you're also looking for something that will challenge your kids to keep thinking and have fun at the same time, then this might be a good fit!
Company Information: Dig-It! Games, created by professional archeologist and former middle-school teacher Suzi Wilczynski, is a fun way to get kids thinking creatively and learning independently by going back in time to ancient cultures. At this time, Dig-It! Games has produced two online games, Mayan Mysteries (2012) and Roman Town (2010). As they say at Dig-It! Games, "fun and learning go hand in hand."
Product Reviewed: A one-year online subscription to Mayan Mysteries. This mystery game seeks to uncover the identity of the mysterious looter, Ladrone, through various activities, such as quizzes, games, and puzzles. I used a Mac, but the game will also run on Windows. There is also an app of the game in the App Store.
Within each segment, there are reading assignments and quizzes (all interactively linked so kids can explore to their heart's content!), games, puzzles, "digging" for artifacts, and mapwork. As kids complete different challenges, they earn points, which of course, is what makes it so fun for us.
Price: $21.99 for a single user license for one year
Age Range: grades 5-9
Parental Preparation: none, aside from the initial setup of user name and password.
How We Used It: As a fun activity during the break, we used it as an introduction to our ancient history studies this school year. Matthew would spend about 20-30 minutes on the games a few days a week. To be honest, I couldn't resist, so I also played it myself!
What We Liked:
- There is an incredible amount of information shared in a very interactive manner. Instead of just learning about how Mayan calendars worked, we played games that helped us to learn how it worked. In this game, we had to utilize both what we learned about the calendar and the number system.
- We not only learned about the Mayan culture, but also about archaeology. One of the activities gave us the opportunity to learn by choosing which tool to use to unearth an artifact. We had to select the proper tool; if we didn't, we would either take too long or break the object.
- A variety of subjects are integrated into the game: geography, math, reading comprehension, critical thinking, among others. The teacher's page gives more specifics on the games.
- The story gives the game a structure and helps it move forward. We liked collecting clues as we completed each section.
- You can play the game over and over to improve your point score. Even though it is a single-user account, multiple kids can each take a turn by clicking "New Game." (Be forewarned, however: make sure the previous player is done before doing so...otherwise their hard work will be erased!)
- National Education Standards are available if you'd like to know.
Much of Mayan culture had a pagan aspect to it and includes discussion on Mayan mythology, human sacrifices, idolatry and the like. This can either be an opportunity to discuss these things with your kids (and if they're in grades 5-9, most of them are pretty much ready to handle that kind of discussion) or a warning to avoid the game. We opted for the former, but use your discretion as parents.
(Spoiler alert) Also, when we got to the end of the game, we found out that it was only the first part of the game. Apparently, there is a Mayan Mysteries 2 coming up! We have yet to find out who Ladrone is!
I didn't think Matthew should have all the fun, so I took a turn on it myself. (I confess!) As this is a culture that we do not often study, it was a very enjoyable way to learn about it. This is a perfect way to engage our children's minds over the summer. I am looking forward to more from Dig It! Games!