Last week, the NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) debuted their new app: Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms. Joined by fire prevention’s famous pup, Sparky, three kids are on a mission to solve a dangerous problem, and you and your kids can help save the day.
Upon opening the app (for the purpose of this sponsored posts, and because my kids are always thrilled to play with new apps and I love it when they can learn from them), I was surprised to hear a catchy rap by Recess Monkey that the kids and I started jiving to (what? We jive.) Clearly, the music writers knew exactly what they were doing, because the chorus is now stuck in my head:
what’s the sound? beep beep beep
What’s the sound? gotta move your feet
what’s the sound? beep beep beep
What’s the sound? gotta do it again
You can watch the video on the app or the Sparky.org webpage.
The rest of the rap makes learning basics about fire safety a lot more fun than reading Clifford the Firehouse Dog a zillion times (which is fun the first few, but it’s been a popular one in our house for about 10 years and after a few times, it’s time to move on.)
The story (and the secret game within)
My daughter had some alone time with an iPod today, while we were at a doctor appointment for one of my kids, so the Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms story on the app was perfect entertainment for about —– minutes. While the words of the story are supplied, they’re miniscule on the ipod or iphone so, luckily for those of us with older eyes or young children, the story is narrated while the words are highlighted as they’re read. In advance of reading/listening, let your children know they’ll need to press the red arrow at the top of the screen to turn the page when the narrator is finished reading.
You can also turn off the sound if you’d rather read the book.
The story is about 3 children and Sparky the dog, investigating a stolen set of fire alarms from Aunt Dottie’s house. Just like all good mysteries, there’s a great background story, a search for clues and, in this case, fire safety tips– blending the message into the story. The story is just over 10 minutes, includes a printable certificate for when finished watching/reading and talking points for families after.
There are also Parent’s pages with suggestions for further reading and exploring, as well as lessons, as well as Common Core listing stating the key standards the book focuses.
It wasn’t until my third viewing of the story that I realized there’s a secret game within the app–by tapping elements in each picture, kids are challenged to find fire safety tips on each page. For non-readers parents may have to read some of the tips to the kids.
What’s even better than a story to watch/read a few times? An associated learning game in the app. The benefits of this game are concept retention. The more the kids play with a concept, the better they learn it. There are also math concepts, helping the game to align with Common Core Standards.
The game offers a mixture of basic math concepts (addition and subtraction) and word problems, as well as a tapping game to collect smoke alarms and batteries for recharging. (Note: I’m finding it near impossible to get Sparky to the top of the screen– where he needs to be to collect fire alarms and batteries– unless I begin tapping rapidly before the game actually begins, so during the instructions. Definitely let your child know this in advance.)
The basic game (tapping to get the alarms and batteries) is great for kids of Kindergarten age and older. But, because the math problems include reading, and you need to complete them to get to the next level, younger kids may become frustrated. My 5 year old was able to complete the math problems with a small prompt of a math reminder — what’s the symbol for minus mean? — but when we got to the story problem, I was needed to read the story. Which is fine when you’re working on an app with your child, not so fine when you’re in a doctor appointment and she comes running in. In future versions, I’d love to see the addition of an optional read-aloud button for story problems.
If your child answers the multiple choice question incorrectly, she’ll be prompted to try again (there are only three options, so she’ll get there pretty soon.)
The game is definitely meant to supplement the story, not to replace. It’s great to talk about why Sparky needs fire alarms and batteries, but the bulk of the learning is in the story.
I recommend the story for families of elementary-age children, as well as a refresher for everyone. For more information and to download the free app visit the Sparky.org webpage, or find it in iTunes or the Play store. This post is sponsored by the NFPA.
© 2014, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.