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Review CornerSoftware
Liberty's Kids
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
This invaluable program casts children in the role of reporter as they learn to separate fact from fiction, and create newspaper stories about key events in American history. Exceptional!
Award
Ages: 9-12  Subject: History; Reading & Writing  Publisher: The Learning Company/Riverdeep
Review Sections:  Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Playing as an apprentice reporter/journalist for Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette, children embark on an adventure in history that involves collecting information about seven key events connected with the American Revolution. Children learn about the unrest in the New World as they interview characters, collect items, and create news articles that report the facts.

The seven events that children create stories about are: The Boston Tea Party, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Declaration of Independence, Crossing the Delaware/Victory at Trenton, Surrender at Saratoga, Winter at Valley Forge, and Victory at Yorktown. Children lead two reporters with distinct characters--Sarah Phillips and James Hiller. Each reporter brings a different perspective to the game. Sarah has just arrived from London in search of her father, and her loyalty to her country is unmistakable. James, on the other hand, is eager for independence. Despite their differences, both Sarah and James are determined to pursue accurate stories for the Gazette. In order to fulfill the journalistic goals of completeness and accuracy, they will need to see all sides of the story. They work with Benjamin Franklin's apprentice, Moses, who is in charge of the Print Shop while Ben wages a "war of words" with the British Government in London.

The Print Shop acts as home base. This is where assignments are given, and, once complete, news stories are edited, laid out, and printed. Kids can also learn about the success of the newspaper here by referring to the number of copies sold.

Upon taking an assignment, players set out to collect quotes and sketches. Players quickly find out that these are not always straightforward! Not all characters are immediately forthcoming with information, and players will need to do favors for them in order to earn their cooperation. This often means collecting objects, such as a bayonet or pair of scissors, found in different areas. For example, John Adams needs a letter from Mr. Dickensen before he can answer questions and grant an important interview with Thomas Jefferson, who in turn needs a pot of ink! Children collect information in their notebooks, and, when they would like to capture a sketch of the scene, they simply click on the "Make Sketch" icon in their toolbar, and it appears in their notebooks.

As players collect information, they must keep in mind the 5 W's of good journalism: who, what, when, where, and why. In fact, the notebook is divided into these five important categories. For example, when players are reporting on the Boston Tea Party, they ask characters these questions: Who do you think destroyed the tea? What happened to the tea? When was the tea destroyed? Where was the tea destroyed? Why do you think the tea was destroyed? Children interview a number of characters (such as John Hancock, a Loyalist, and a milliner) whose answers are not always particularly useful in each category. Children determine the relevancy of the quotes they collect during the editing process. Before deciding on quotes to use in their news story, they can refer to feedback from Moses. Layout involves selecting a headline and a sketch for the front page.

The game can be played in Practice Mode if a guided adventure is not desired. This allows users to choose any event to play instead of following the progression of the adventure. When players get stuck, they can click on the Benjamin Franklin icon for general hints about navigation (these were not found to be especially useful). Kids can research important dates, people, and places in the reference book.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP, PC and compatibles 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and 60 MB free hard disk space. Mac users require a Power PC, 180 MHz or faster, OS 8.6-9.1 and Mac OS X 10.2 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and 100 MB hard drive space. A printer is recommended, but optional.

Skills Covered
History of the American Revolution, listening, observation, separating fact from opinion, the five W's of reporting, composing reports, problem-solving, and logic.

Educational Value
The educational value of this program runs very high. Instead of merely reading about historical facts, children become immersed in a game that explores seven events that were part of the American Revolution. The learning is active as players engage in investigative reporting--they collect information, select relevant information, and create a news story for the newspaper. Players must separate fact from fiction as they gather the "who, what, when, where, and why" of each story.

Entertainment Value
The presentation gives kids a sense that the game is more an adventure than a history lesson. Banter between the two main characters is interesting and informative!

Design
The program offers kids two ways to play the game--either in a directed adventure or in practice mode. The interface of the game is satisfactory. Although children need to do a fair amount of "clicking" in order to navigate through the different areas, testers were able to play the game independently.

Replayability
The program boasts strong and plentiful content. Each "event" is replayable in the sense that children can always collect different quotes and sketches to create new stories.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM retails for approximately $25 US.

Released: 2002 
Reviewed: October 2002