I know that I mentioned on my last Five for Friday, but my kids LOVED mission-us.org, and I wanted to share more about it with you.
It is free to sign up, and no email is required. So the first step that I had my students do was to create an account by clicking Register in the upper right hand corner. They had to create a username and password, along with setting a security question, inputting their town, state, and their grade level range.
There are three missions to complete. Mission 1 is about the Revolutionary War, Mission 2 is about escaping slavery, and Mission 3 is about settlers affecting the way of life for the Cheyenne.
Since I wasn't ready to start the Revolutionary War one yet, I had my students attempt to escape slavery since we had recently discussed slaves and indentured servants in the southern colonies.
There are five parts to the mission. You have to make the right decisions to unlock the next part.
Of course, there were plenty that clicked through and made poor choices on purpose, trying to be silly and typical fifth graders, but then (to their surprise) they died or were captured. Back to square one. When they realized that they had to do it all over again, they made much better choices. Even so, they weren't always successful. They did some collaboration with the person at the computer next to them so they wouldn't make the same mistakes. The kids were engaged the entire 45 minutes and I think that the farthest anyone got was Part 2. Some asked me if they could work on the mission at home, and of course I said yes :) I overheard many of them say that they really enjoyed doing this, which was awesome to hear because everyone experienced a setback at some point during the simulation.
If you teach any of these three topics, I highly recommend this website as an engaging way to discover what it was like during that time period, how to prioritize, and seeing cause and effect relationships. Plus, it's free!