As the nation's first president, George Washington faced a series of difficult decisions, all with major implications for our young nation. The premise of the game is simple: Given the same information that Washington had, what decision would you have made?
With the new interactive game Be Washington, you get to step into George Washington's boots. As a high school teacher, I had to check it out for myself. Could this game experience hold the attention of my teenage students? Could this high school English teacher make an informed decision like Washington? Here's what I found.
The link to the game experience can be found on Mount Vernon's website. Once there, I had the choice of three different ways to play:
1. In-person in the Interactive Theater at Mount Vernon: This option is free with general admission to Mount Vernon.
2. Online at home or in the classroom: The interactive online version of the game is free and does not require a download - perfect for the classroom.
3. Reservations for the Private Experience: This option is available with reservations for groups visiting Mount Vernon.
I opted to play online.
I then had the option of playing a hosted or single-player game. The single-player game would be perfect for students who want to play independently at their own pace. The hosted version would be ideal for playing with the entire class. The teacher would be the "host" computer and students would play along with their individual devices. The results of all of the students would then be compiled and presented at the end of each scenario - allowing students to see how their "choices" compared to Washington and their classmates.
To begin the experience, I had to chose from four different scenarios:
- The Battle of Second Trenton (1777)
- The Newburgh Conspiracy (1783)
- The Genet Affair (1793)
- The Whiskey Rebellion (1794)
I chose the Whiskey Rebellion and was immediately transported back to 1794. There was a 3-5 minute live-action film that provided students with the necessary background information. During the film, all major historical figures were identified and the dialogue was closed-captioned, which made it easier to follow. My students would definitely be engaged by this footage.
If more background information is needed for your students, Mount Vernon also provides lesson plans for each of the scenarios in the game.
After getting the background information, I was asked to "be Washington" and provide a solution to the problem. I was given three options for the Whiskey Rebellion:
- Suspend the tax
- Let the local officials handle the enforcement
- Use Military force
To help me make my decision, I had five minutes to get advice from a number of different advisors. I thought this was actually the coolest part of the experience. Each of the advisors gave their opinion and then I could "rate" how much I agreed with their opinion. This part was also live-action with an actor playing the part of each of the historical advisors. The advisors in the Whiskey Rebellion scenario included the following:
- Alexander Hamilton - Secretary of Treasury
- Thomas Mifflin - Governor
- John MItchell - Wheat Farmer
- Benjamin Franklin Bache - Newspaper Editor
- David Ramsay - Historian
- Daniel Morgan - Major General
- Daniel Morgan - Major General
- Hugh Henry Brackenridge - Newspaper Editor
I then made my selection and saw how my choice compared to other players and to Washington. (For the record, I chose to let local enforcement handle the situation, which was decidedly not like Washington. I suppose I should stick to teaching English composition.)
The bottom line?
This experience was highly engaging and could be a great use for either a full-class experience, a small group break-out experience, or for students to use independently (though they would need headphones). I learned a lot and found it exciting to see how my decision compared to Washington's. Moreover, it couldn't have been easier to use. There was nothing to download (as a classroom teacher, I'm always imagining ways technology can fail - this game did not present any problems).
One final bonus: The Common Core and many other state-specific standards often ask students to evaluate a situation or claim from different viewpoints. This game is a perfect way to have students weigh the different viewpoints to make a decision. This alone makes this game a winner in my book.
Check it out and let us know what you think!