The little whippersnappers today don’t know how good they have it. Do you remember back when museums were boring? Remember the old days, back in the 1990s, when museums were places for grown-ups? You couldn’t touch anything. You couldn’t play any games. You went to the museum, the people who worked there stared down their noses at you for being a kid, you cringed in fear of being yelled at, then if you still liked art or music or history, you knew it was your thing. You were committed. Haters be danged. You would be a dorky little nerdtastical geek just to spite them.
Our kids, man. Our kids get really excellent interactive apps these days. Take, for example, the Agent 711 Revolutionary Spy Adventure at Mount Vernon. Y’all, that thing is magic.
Imagine: a hot day. A wilting flower of a child. Parents who are on their first driving trip with the antsy seven-year-old. Arriving during a heat wave in Virginia, temperatures rising to 97 degrees in the middle of the day, the two adults and whiny child are already hot by 10:30 am. As we walked out from the Educational Center, the muggy heat slapped us in the face like a gauntlet, challenging us to a duel.
So, I whipped out my phone with the downloaded app. I handed that to the Grumpolopolous with us, and I watched him slowly devolve back into a human child.
The premise of the app is nothing super special. It consists of a treasure hunt of sorts. There are nine different places you need to go. If you go to each of the nine spots, in order, you complete the missions.
Then General Washington reveals himself to be the one in charge, thanks you for your service, and tells you the country will now be safe because of your bravery. Then you find a history interpreter and are awarded your gold rubber bracelet.
These kinds of apps are making history insanely fun for both kids and their parents. I don’t have to wheedle my child into meandering through the obscene Virginia summer heat to see all the different parts of the museum. My kid gets to learn stuff more tailored to his interests (there’s a lot of cool spy Culper Ring history embedded in the story).
Learning should be creative and fun. Museums embracing this kind of age-appropriate technology and integrating gaming into their experiences bring parents together with their kids and makes kids want to learn.