JFK Challenge

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
JFK Challenge App Poster Image
Got the right stuff? Explore the Peace Corps and Space Race.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about a specific period in history and important initiatives of the JFK administration. Though the games aren't inherently educational, there's lots of potential for extension and enrichment. Use the Space Race mission to talk about the historical context of the Cold War, the science behind the multistage rocket, the boosters on the Lunar Module, and the materials of the space suit. Use the Peace Corps mission to discuss that program's historical context, its continuing work, and its significance. The introductory video and the biography also are good resources on President Kennedy's life. JFK Challenge is a low-impact look at history that may inspire some kids to dig a little deeper outside the app.

Ease of Play

Steering games can be a little tough to control, but Peace Corps and Space Race activities are easier.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that JFK Challenge is an app created by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to explore two key initiatives of the 35th president: the Peace Corps and the Space Race. Kids play amusing games and get a hands-on glimpse of life on both of these important "missions."

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What's it about?

JFK CHALLENGE celebrates the life and achievements of the 35th president of the United States. Produced by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the app introduces President Kennedy's story through audio clips and images and then lets users complete games and activities that explore two of the president's key initiatives: the Peace Corps and the Space Race. After users create a profile (there can be up to three per device) with a name and a profile picture (either a photo from their device or a default portrait of the president), they then can choose their mission, watch a brief historical video, and embark on a series of simple challenges. Users must earn points in each challenge o move on to the next one. In the Peace Corps mission, you train to volunteer in Colombia by learning a few key Spanish words, digging a waterway, and building a house. Finally, you explore a map that shows other volunteers' locations around the world. In Space Race, users train to steer the spacecraft, land the Lunar Module, and assemble their space suit. The mission culminates with the Apollo 11 moon launch, and users tap and tilt the screen to detach the rocket's stages, land on the moon, and explore the lunar surface.

The information section includes background on the app's content and development, a longer biography of President Kennedy, an introduction to the JFK Library, and a few FAQs on the support page. There's also a brief privacy disclaimer.

Is it any good?

The graphics here are excellent: From the dynamic, animated text of the president's speeches to the cartoon lines of the Apollo spacesuit, JFK Challenge evokes the visual style of the early 1960s but looks fresh and modern. The games are interesting and amusing and pauses between stages of each game to explain key points, such as what each stage of the Saturn V rocket does and why it was important for Peace Corps volunteers to address water safety. Since the app was created by the JFK Library, there's a clearly positive perspective on the president's time in office (the Cuban Missile Crisis and other tense moments aren't featured prominently), but the tone and content seem appropriate for the age range.

Though the app features good content, learning isn't baked into these games, though they hint at larger insights about physics and social studies. Kids probably will prefer the Space Race mission to the Peace Corps, since launching a rocket is more appealing than building a trench. However, it's impressive that the app features both missions: Even though the Peace Corps is far less glamorous than the Apollo program, its quieter achievements are well explored here and nicely receive equal billing. Overall, this is an amusing tool for exploring President Kennedy's achievements and playing some related games along the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what presidential libraries are and what they do. Why would the JFK Library create this app? What information would you expect to learn about these topics inside the museum, and how does this app extend the museum experience?

  • Talk about what it would be like to join the Peace Corps. Where would you like to volunteer? How would you want to help the people who live there?

  • Discuss the Space Race and the history of the Apollo and shuttle programs. Why would astronauts have to train for so long? What kind of training would help astronauts do their jobs? 

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For kids who love hands-on looks at history

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