The Adventures of Josie True

This fun web game stars 11 year-old Josie, a Chinese-American 4th grader. Her teacher, Ms. Trombone, goes missing the day before the class’s big field trip, and Josie takes it on herself to find out what happened. The game was created in 1999 by Mary Flanagan, a professor of media studies, to bring technology to underrepresented groups. Professor Flanagan hoped to draw in 9- to 11-year-old girls to help them increase their math, science, and technology skills. While they travel back in time with Josie to Chicago and Paris, girls learn how to manipulate the website and solve fun puzzles based on math or science. They learn about how technologies work and can find role models in both Josie, who courageously decides to rescue her favorite teacher and solve the mystery, and Ms. Trombone, who is an inventor as well as a teacher. This is a relatively simple game; players simply click through different rooms, solving puzzles and answering questions along the way. These questions test math and science skills, as well as spatial awareness (matching shapes) and reading skills. Josie’s diary is also available for online viewing, and there are online quiz games and offline science experiment ideas (I particularly like the “How to Make Slime” activity). After rescuing her teacher from Chicago, 1922, the two go to Paris and have all kinds of excellent adventures. This is an easy, fun game to introduce 9- to 11-year-old girls to online gaming.

Why I recommend this game:
Josie True is a wonderful heroine, especially because she represents groups that are often left out of the online community – girls and minorities. She meets famous women from history, such as Bessie Coleman, the first African-American international aviator. Professor Flanagan is “demonstrating how the Internet can be an egalitarian tool for self-expression.” (NY Times article 3/29/00). The mystery and puzzles will help draw them in; the game is engaging without being pedantic. I love that this game appeals to girls, especially non-white girls, and may help them gain computer skills and realize that they can be just as good at math and science as their male peers – no matter what society tells them. This is a great message within a great game, and I think young girls would get a lot out of it.

The Adventures of Josie True: http://www.josietrue.com

Other Resources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/29/business/is-anybody-not-out-for-e-billions-josie-true-for-one.html

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Imagine Game Series (for Nintendo D.S. and Wii)

This series of games came out in 2007 and is still expanding. It was created by Ubisoft, one of the biggest game developers in Europe, as part of its Games for Girls series. The games are aimed primarily at girls, although they can appear to children of both sexes. They allow girls to pretend to be any number of careers, from artist or party planner to teacher or veterinarian. There’s even a diary version of this game (My Secret World, by Imagine) where girls can record their thoughts, take online quizzes, and connect with friends. There is also a website (ubisoft.com) that allows girls to create an avatar and further explore the careers from their games, as well as playing in a Style Lab or with online Petz. Girls can chat with other users, but there are plenty of parental controls in place to ensure their online safety. This is a very creative way to encourage career exploration. It’s even somewhat realistic. In Imagine: Teacher, players pretend to be a rookie, charged with bringing more students into the classroom. The teacher has to increase students’ knowledge, help them find the career that suits them best, create a fun and engaging learning environment, and talk to parents and school staff. In Imagine: Artists girls learn different art techniques (painting, drawing, even collage), create their own works of art, and then upload their creation to their online gallery to show off to friends. And in Imagine: Family Doctor, players learn about their patients’ symptoms and medical histories, and then diagnose them with mini-games, give advice, and write prescriptions. While this story- and people-oriented game style might not appeal to young boys, it would definitely draw in many young girls, even those who are not otherwise into gaming.

Why I recommend these games:
While Imagine: Cheerleader or Imagine: Prom are not the most progressive concepts out there, it’s great that these games encourage young girls to try out different careers. I believe this teaches children that they can be whatever they want to be. Many of these careers are both progressive and fun, like Zookeeper or Soccer Captain, and some are very informative (apparently Imagine: Party Babyz is a very realistic demonstration of the joys and trials of babysitting). This is an excellent way to introduce girls to light, fun gaming that they can do socially (Nintendo DS encourages players to connect with their friends to chat and play together). This will help girls master technology and help them narrow down their possible career choices.

Other Resources:
http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2008/07/16/lets-hear-it-for-the-girls/

BrainCake

This website is sponsored by the Girls’ Math & Science Partnership, a program of Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Their mission is to “engage, educate, and embrace girls as architects of change.” They work with girls ages 11 to 17, as well as parents, teachers, and mentors. The site points out that while girls are just as good at math and science as boys, they are culturally conditioned not to succeed in those fields. The site is dedicated to adjusting that gender gap. It is explicitly and implicitly aimed at young girls – the browsing is fun, the website is pink, and they have ways to connect via social media websites like Facebook.
The website provides a list of local event that involve math and science. It offers grants for math and science related activities and projects, specifically through the “Green for Your Dreams” initiative, which encourages girls to read about featured women and take a quiz about what they learned. They also have scholarships available. The website hosts a radio show and a forum on which girls can discuss their dreams and ideas. Girls can even talk online with women who work in math, science, technology, engineering, architecture, etc. The website has games, experiments, homework help, and all sorts of other resources for girls of all ages.

My favorite part is the Online Spy School, which works in concert with their “urban adventure camp.” Girls team up to solve a mystery, earning crime-solving credentials by applying the skills they learn. They use high-tech gadgets and build relationships with other middle school girls. I wish I had been able to do this in middle school!

Why I recommend this website:
This is a fantastic website. It is detailed and interesting and really appeals to the demographic. They are doing great work in providing role models and examples for young girls. Their parent/teacher page is full of great ideas and the site is guaranteed to get girls thinking about all of the great things they can do. The resources and information on this site are so thorough, I think teachers could use it for a class, perhaps as part of a research assignment on famous women scientists. I think this is a very necessary initiative, and it’s good to know that it’s out there.

BrainCake: Smart. Sweet. http://www.braincake.org/default.aspx