Monday, 5 September 2016

History Heroes: Card Games to Teach Kids about Scientists and Inventors

History Heroes are card games designed to teach people about significant figures from the past. This week they are releasing a new Inventors themed game which features some of the characters we have written about on here on Tech Age Kids including Hedy Lamarr, Tim Berners-Lee and Thomas Edison. A Scientists deck is also available.

Disclaimer: History Heroes provided us with their Scientists and Inventors packs for this review. As always, our views are our own.

As a kid tech blog we do a lot of looking forward to the future, but we also like to help parents to share the history of technology with their children. It's inspiring, interesting and useful to understand how today's technology came about and who the key characters were (and are.) The History Heroes Scientists and Inventors card games are designed to help all ages to learn (and remember) facts about history.

The Cards

Each card has 6 facts about a person from history plus the dates when they were alive, their national flag and a bonus 'Joker Fact'. The cards are well illustrated in a modern cartoon style.

The cards themselves are quite large and high quality, we found that their matt finish makes it hard to deal them quickly but does look and feel very nice.

The facts are interesting and entertaining, though we were a little disappointed that the Alan Turing card focused so much on his personal life when he contributed so much to technology.

The cards are developed by a UK company and the cards cover the western world with lots of American and European figures.

This video gives you a taster of the Scientists deck:

The Game

History Heroes comes with some brief instructions on how to play the game but also gives you permission to adapt the rules and invent new ones to suit your players. 

Players win cards by directly identifying the character from clues which range in difficulty. This video explains the default rules:

The game is intended for all ages from 8+ including adults and it quickly became clear that my 8 and 9 year old's didn't have enough knowledge to play well. They knew about quite a few of the people, but hadn't heard of many of them. Of course the goal of the game is to teach that knowledge so you can just keep playing until the players do know enough. But that could be a bit frustrating for young kids at the start. 

Instead we decided to adapt the game. I let my boys take turns choosing a card that they thought I would be able to identify from the deck, then they would start from the hardest clue and score points depending on how quickly I identified the character. 

This worked really well. They were reading the cards and learning about figures such as Nikola Tesla, Alan Turing and Archimedes (Scientists) and Johannes Gutenburg, Leonardo da Vinci and Guglielmo Marconi (Inventors). They really enjoying watching me think really hard and trying to pick a card that they thought I would know about.

We've had fun with these cards and adults and kids have learned a lot. My kids loved demonstrating the knowledge they did have and were very keen to learn more.

Ideas for Using History Heroes Cards

It's worth pointing out that the cards don't just have to be used to play the game in the instructions, there's lots of scope for using them in interesting ways.

How about:
  1. It would be a lot of fun to add game show style buzzers to the game and read the clues from hardest to easiest and let kids buzz in when they think they know the answer (or make your own buzzers with a microcontroller.)  
  2. Why not use the cards as an alternative advent or countdown calendar and introduce a new card (or two) each day so kids gradually build up their knowledge. 
  3. Use the cards as rewards for working on a new skill or tidying their room. 
  4. Put a History Hero of the week up on the fridge. 
  5. Find out the birthdays of the Heroes and put them in a calendar and use the cards to learn about them on their birthdays. 
  6. Put the cards in order of birth date to provide an overview of the timeline of science and invention. 

The Verdict

History Heroes cards are a great way to get kids interested in technologists from the past. The quality and modern style of the artwork makes the cards very appealing to children.

The game is hard to just play out of the box from the default rules unless you have a very high level of knowledge and recall already. So you either need to accept that and keep playing to learn, or adapt the rules to speed up the learning as we did. You could allow children to read all of the cards first, or read a few at bedtime each evening to build up their knowledge.

You can order History Heroes cards from Amazon UK. There are also other topics including Explorers, Sports and Children to choose from. The new Inventors set is available from the History Heroes website.

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