By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

Newburyport (CBS) — It’s a history lesson without the textbooks. Only iPads and laptops are required.

Students at the River Valley Charter School in Newburyport are traveling back in time to the 1800’s to learn about the Underground Railroad using a game developed by Muzzy Lane.

“The most important thing that a product like this can do is make history relevant and current rather than something that seems like it happened a long time ago so why should I care so much about it,” says President and CEO of Muzzy Lane, a Newburyport educational video game developer.

In this online educational experience the students take on the role of a slave trying to escape from the south. The game has given students a whole new view on this part of US history.

“I thought it was a railroad at first. Then I realized it was a code name for freedom,” explains 4th grader Elizabeth Downes. “I never knew that people had to go through something this bad.”

“I think it helps because you actually get to experience a little bit more,” said 6th grader Eli Hammett.

History teacher Lynne Taylor likes that the game really puts the students in the place of the slave who is running away.

“It’s something that is so much a part of our history and plays so much into what going on now,” said Taylor.

The students must make life or death decisions to secure their freedom, traveling from safe house to safe house, and meeting historical figures like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas along the way.

Muzzy Lane teamed up with National Geographic for the project. It’s now available for free online.

“when you’re talking about building empathy for a time period that took place 100’s of years ago putting the students actually in the role and giving them dynamic choices,” said Tyler Vogel, a lead designer at Muzzy Lane and former teacher.

“It is a very effective tool,” Vogel said.

Paula Ebben

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