Product Review of LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Disney Phineas and Ferb
LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Disney Phineas and Ferb is a video game that introduces kids to circuits and engineering, and reinforces arithmetic. Phineas and Ferb are building a water balloon machine, and they need help gathering parts. In the meantime, Agent P is out to foil Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s evil plot, and he needs some help, too. Kids help Phineas and Ferb collect parts by navigating their current water balloon machine through a maze of streets, battling robots along the way. They can answer math problems (addition, subtraction, and multiplication) to earn power-ups, and will need to solve circuits puzzles to unlock doors. They also complete blueprints using shapes (much like Tangrams). The easy level provides outlines for the shaped pieces, while the harder level leaves kids to figure it out on their own. Agent P needs to get to the secret hiding place by rolling down some ramps. Kids help him out by placing the missing pieces to get him safely to his destination. This is chock-full of fun STEM activities.
This is a strong introduction to or reinforcement of age-appropriate STEM concepts. Teachers can use this game by rotating groups through playing it. Then, they can tie it into the classroom with lots of hands-on activities. Bring in recycled materials and build a marble run. Challenge your learners to get the marble (Agent P) from one place to another without it falling. Introduce the class to some simple circuits using button batteries, wires, and LEDs. Let them experiment to see which things in the classroom are conductors and which are insulators. It’s also a good chance to dust off your Tangrams and set kids solving some of those puzzles.
There’s no doubt kids will enjoy putting on a thinking cap to get through the challenges. The puzzles are just the sort of thing kids enjoy doing. Rolling Agent P on his way feels like completing the perfect marble run, and completing the blueprints is like playing with virtual blocks. But there are some learning activities that just aren’t as well-integrated as they could be throughout. Kids will pause their shootout with the robots to solve math problems and earn power-ups. The circuits puzzles make a bit more sense, but kids may not make the connection between completing a circuit and having a door open. It feels like they’re thrown in as “learning obstacles,” even though they have an appropriate role. As you might expect with a STEM title, some of the learning is more nuanced, focusing on subtle problem-solving skills. Since this game only includes Phineas, Ferb, Perry (Agent P), and Dr. Doofenshmirtz, it’s sorely lacking in the diversity that the television show displays.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Kids will revel in the video-game style and clever puzzles. Once they complete the story, they can go back and replay some of the puzzles or play again at a harder level.
Curriculum and Instruction
The circuits and logic puzzles bring are a great way to learn, but they’re sandwiched between water balloon shoot-’em-up game levels. All the side characters are missing from the game, removing the diversity of the TV cast.
Kids can get the help they need with the puzzles, although they can get stuck. Parents can track kids’ progress through the online Learning Path software.