Articles & Collections, Article
Teaching With Technology: Exploring Nature on the Web
The Internet provides great information for young children - if you know where to look.
- Grades: Early Childhood, Infant, PreK–K, 1–2
You would think that there would be a ton of science titles for young children. But out of 416, only 16 are designed for children ages three to six. Of these, only one is worth mentioning: Sammy's Science House. This program offers five enjoyable activities, including an animal-classification game in which children group animals by category - for example, feathers or fur; shell or no shell. Children can also practice thinking skills as they unscramble mixed-up movies and then watch them on the screen or choose weather conditions and see them acted out by Sammy and his cast of friends. IBM (Edmark Corp.), 800-362-2890; Windows/Mac CD-ROM; $19.95.
WHAT ROLE CAN COMPUTERS play in an area of learning that's as hands-on as exploring nature? They provide access to the Internet, where you'll find accurate, detailed, and, at times, illustrated answers to just about any question the young scientists in your program think up. The challenge is to make sure you connect with safe, useful, child-friendly sites. To answer a preschooler's questions about butterflies, we tried out four of the best search services and information sites for kids. Here's what we found.
A good place to begin an Internet investigation is with a search engine - a site where you can type in keywords and be given the URLs for relevant Web pages. Because all the information on Yahooligans! is "filtered" (editors examine the sites listed for potentially offensive language or content), you are likely to have an easier time finding what the children in your program are looking for. A bonus: This service will not link you to all those questionable sites that seem to crop up during searches using adult-oriented search engines. Within seconds, we found 34 butterfly-related sites, and not one of them led us to any businesses offering butterfly tattoos!
The editors of Encyclopedia Britannica search the Web for good Internet sites concerning just about any topic you can imagine. Each one is clearly and concisely described, most are assigned one- to five-star ratings, and all are written by knowledgeable editors. Using eBLAST, we were able to find a site called Butterflies of North America, from the U.S. Geological Survey, which had hundreds of beautiful butterfly pictures.
One of the best CD-ROM encyclopedias you can buy is Microsoft Encarta. You can also search the concise version of Encarta for free at www.encarta.msn.com. We were able to quickly find 11 useful articles about butterflies. Encarta on the Web doesn't have any of the pictures or videos available on the CD-ROM version, but, in general, you can count on it for child-friendly facts.
This service is not free ($9.95 per month), and it is perhaps more valuable for school-age than preschool children, but what it does is quite remarkable. The Electric Library searches not only the Internet but also hundreds of traditional news sources and provides access to the archives of National Public Radio and many major newspapers and popular magazines. In our search for information on butterflies, we found a terrific feature article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about how more and more people are taking up butterfly collecting as a hobby.
In our Web explorations, we also came across two science sites young children are sure to enjoy.
Lincoln Park Zoo
These pages offer a wealth of information on zoo inhabitants. Children can see photos of animals and even take a virtual tour of this famous zoo. The "tigercam" goes right into the tigers' cage and follows these felines throughout the day. Children can learn about conservation programs across the country, and for adults there's lots of interesting text about hundreds of animals.
U.S. Geological Survey Kid's Comes
This site is a great place for adults to go for child-friendly information about endangered species. The content includes science articles from children's magazines, fact sheets on endangered animals, a slide show, and more. There are also links to other cool environmental sites.