Monday, July 15, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Mayan Mysteries by Dig-It! Games

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There's a new game to play and it's all about those mysterious Mayans.  You may recall that we reviewed Roman Town a few years ago by Dig-It Games and LOVED it, so we were excited to have the opportunity to play their newest game this year.  Mayan Mysteries is available as an online game where you visit ancient Maya cities, excavate real Maya sites, explore the Maya calendar, and even learn Maya math ($21.99 for a one year, single-user license) or there's even an app for that on iPad ($9.99) if appschooling fun is part of your school plan.  We received the online, puzzle-based game that is designed with students in 5th - 9th grades in mind -- perfect for my 7th and 9th graders.

From Dig-It Games:  Mayan Mysteries is a unique adventure that turns gamers into real archaeologists as they embark on a thrilling expedition to catch a secretive loot-stealing thief. With more than 300 challenges and approximately 12 hours of game play, Mayan Mysteries is perfect for kids interested in a long-term gaming experience. The game is educational, too! Aligned with national education standards, Mayan Mysteries tests for reading comprehension, spatial reasoning, math and science skills, and more, all blended into a seamlessly fun and informative quest.

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To begin playing AND learning, students need to simply sign into the online game.  Parents set the user name and password and turn their children loose on an adventure through Guatemala's historical sites and archaeological finds.  Students are invited to begin play by reading through a short comic-strip style story line where they join the detective team of Agent Q to help solve the mystery of an ancient artifact that was thrown through the window of the local police station.  (NOTE:  When welcoming you to the game, Officer Mateo remarks that you have a very special "energy" surrounding you.  He also shares that YOU will be the one to find the Hidden City because he can "feel" you are special.  This is in keeping with the beliefs of the culture.)

It is worth noting that the entire game is reading intensive.  Students will read a good deal of historical information as they work to solve the mystery (Who is stealing valuable artifacts?) and recover the stolen goods.  After reading details from each of the game's characters, students have the opportunity to work through challenges and games that bring history to life.  These questions help students truly comprehend what they are studying.  This reading and then playing helps to solidify what is being taught.  Within each historical lesson there are hyperlinks to be explored for further study.  Hands-on geography skills are improved through the making of virtual maps which include labeling and shading.  (This was the hardest part to me.  My geography skills need LOTS of improvement.)  Interactive play truly brings learning to life.

So how does it all fit together?  Students explore the five different countries that make up the Maya people. In each country, they visit archaeological sites and learn the history of the people group.  A "spirit guide" takes you on a visit back in time to see the people group in their everyday surroundings and students work analytically through a variety of puzzles on their quest to stop a thief.  As they answer questions and earn new artifacts in each country, they complete that level of play with a comprehensive challenge -- a test of all they have been reading and studying.  Once the player answers enough of the questions correctly, they visit the important dig sites of the next country to learn about the people group.  In the process, students gain quite a bit of knowledge of cultural and physical geography.

My 7th Grade Princess has been enjoying her study through Mayan Mysteries and shares this:

I really liked that the game took place in Guatemala because my mom and dad and sister have been there and we are planning a mission trip there in December.  I've seen real-life pictures from Tikal.  I love hearing about the beautiful weavings from the village, too.  My favorite part of the game was the True and False challenges when I was working to stay ahead of the looters.  You had to read and answer questions from what you'd been studying to earn points and keep moving ahead.  If you got the question right, your car would move forward.  There was a marker where you were supposed to end up (your goal for learning in that category) and if you got the question wrong, another car would move in behind you.  You were trying to read and understand all of the correct answers so that the car didn't catch you.  If it caught you, you would have to play again until you got the questions right.  I learned a lot as I read through each lesson and answered the questions about what I read.  I earned points and artifacts as I played and they helped me to solve the mystery for myself.  You should definitely play this game and see if you can outwit the looters from the archaeological dig sites.  It is fun.
Packed with history and geography, Mayan Mysteries gives you a real feel for the Mayan culture and is not for the faint at heart.  I would highly suggest that you take a bit of time and explore the website and play the demo game.  My Princess is enjoying the scope of the game and is learning a plethora of useful information in a way that makes it stick.  I'm thrilled to see her smiling while she learns.  I am also enjoying the game as I love a good challenging puzzle.  Mayan Mysteries is a great complement to your studies.  Enjoy.

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 I was given the opportunity to play Mayan Mysteries by Dig-It Games as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this and other products as well (or just click on the banner below.)

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