Playing and Learning in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum: Newsies!

Over the past year, I’ve watched families play our digital games and interactives in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum (DCHM). At the DCHM, we believe that people can learn about history by both playing and creating games. Part of my responsibility as a Floor Manager is making sure everyone has a fun and educational experience. Occasionally that means helping families find a game to play and then asking them questions to prompt them to think about the characters and the game’s historical context. In this series of “Playing and Learning in DCHM” posts, I’m going to share ways to think critically about the digital games and interactives in the DCHM. There are two types of questions: ones for all of you DCHM history detectives, and ones to ask your grown-ups!

Remember: these questions are meant to spark a conversation and help you think more about history and learn about each other, so don’t be afraid if you don’t know all the answers. To find those answers, you can always try to hunt down clues in the museum, ask a friendly Floor Manager or Educator like myself, or do some research in our library or at home.

In this post, we’re going to explore the game in the Newsies pavilion, which tests your grit and determination as a young newspaper seller over the course of three days. There are a few crucial decisions that you must make, and as you play through the game you should pay close attention to how these decisions affect your success as a newsie, because the choices you make do impact your character’s outcome. Let’s try together!

1. Getting Started

Before you start selling papers, there are a few things you need to decide. First, you must decide whether or not you want to be a boy or a girl newsie. You’ll also need to buy newspaper copies from a company and choose a location where you want to “set up shop.” Then you can start hawking papers by calling out headlines to passersby!

History Detectives, ask yourselves:

  • In what ways could being a boy or girl newsie have been challenging (or helpful) in the 19th and early 20th centuries? (You may have to do some research to figure out the answer to this one! Look at photos, read labels, and check out the newsie related books in the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, too!)

  • How might choosing a specific newspaper have helped newsie?

  • What is the difference between these locations, and where might there be more people willing to buy newspapers?

Ask your grown-ups:

  • How old were you when you had your first job? Did both girls and boys do that type of work? If so, was there any advantage to being either a boy or a girl at that job?

  • Where did people sell (or give away) newspapers when you were growing up, compared to today?

  • Are there any special or memorable headlines that you saw growing up?

2. Bullies?!

When you pick where you’d like to sell your newspapers, there’s a chance that you’ll run into a gang of bullies, who will “swipe your moolah!”

History Detectives, ask yourselves:

  • What are the chances that you might run into bullies in the game?

  • What kind of impact would being robbed have on a Newsie?

Ask your grown-ups:

  • Why do you think there were people that bullied the Newsies?

  • How do the bullies in the game compare to bullies when you were growing up?

3. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Once you’ve got your papers and have picked your street corner, you’ve got to hustle to sell those papers.

History Detectives, ask yourselves:

  • What tricks or strategies might newsies have had to use in order to make sales in a crowded area, especially when there were other newsies as well?

  • How might factors outside of my control (like the weather) affect my success?

  • Where might the passersby be coming from or going to, and why might they want to buy these newspapers?

Ask your grown-ups:

  • Have you ever had to sell anything to strangers before?

  • What did you do to get their attention and make the sale?

  • How does that compare to techniques newsies used?

4. Preparing for the Next Day (and the next day…and the next day)!

At the end of each day, you’re able to view your ‘stats’ for the day and prepare for the next. In order to win, you have to get through three consecutive days.

History Detectives, ask yourselves:

  • Which options seem to be the most responsible or least responsible? Why?

  • How much of an impact might a decision like sleeping at a lodging house have on your ability to sell papers tomorrow?

Ask your grown-ups:

  • What do you do to prepare for a successful workday?

  • How far in advance do you plan your work schedule?

  • Did you ever make an irresponsible decision, and how did that affect your work?

So, did you have what it takes to be a Newsie? Keep playing, and see how much you can learn by paying close attention and having a conversation with your family! Again, it’s important to remember that these questions are meant to guide conversation, and that they’ll probably inspire more questions. Write those down and try and research the answers, or if you’re in the museum on the weekend, ask a DCHM Floor Manager!

Stay tuned for the next Playing and Learning in DCHM, when we’ll be learning about the history of voting in Cast Your Vote.

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This is a clubhouse blog for kids who love history! It is created by the staff of the DiMenna Children’s History Museum and New-York Historical Society.
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