Encyclopedia of Life

Website review by
Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Media
Encyclopedia of Life Website Poster Image
Help build an extraordinary database of all life on Earth.

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about any living thing on the planet. And we mean any living thing, from moth orchids to the silver carp. Watching high speed video of a caterpillar transforming into a chrysalis, they'll get an understanding of metamorphosis. Listening to a podcast about Santa Cruz, California's tiny island fox, kids will get fired up about conservation. Most importantly, kids will learn that each and every organism matters and is worth fighting for. EOL is filled with vetted information on living things, and kids are empowered to explore and add to this rich knowledge bank.

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The site is free but users are encouraged to donate to the cause.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Encyclopedia of Life, or EOL, is a free online collection of information about all life on earth. This includes text, photographs, video, classifications, maps and other multimedia tools. Anyone can view these resources for free. Users that are 13 years or older can become EOL members, allowing them to contribute their own content to the encyclopedia, Wikipedia-style. Kids can sign up using any email account or their existing Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Yahoo account. The site and any content contributed is vetted by "curators" or experts that check for accurarcy.

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What's it about?

Encyclopedia of Life is a free online resource bringing together information about all life on Earth in text, images, video, sounds, maps, classifications and more. With a primary focus on biology, kids can use the site to learn about biodiversity, evolution, and conservation. There are also opportunities for kids to add content to the encyclopedia by building their own page. EOL gets its information by pulling from trusted databases, like the Biodiversity Heritage Library, as well as crowdsourced material from working scientists as well as amateur users. To add info, create an account; then you can contribute to pages, or leave comments on articles you're interested in. You can add these to your Watch List to find easily later.

Is it any good?

It's huge, but EOL's help page puts you at ease with the classic quote from Douglas Adams: "Don't panic." With a super comprehensive set of information and resources on plants, animals, and fungi, junior biologists should have a field day exploring the site. Unfortunately, the site layout isn't super intuitive so kids may need some navigation assistance. Note: the complexity of content varies; some articles may be too challenging for young readers, while others are just fine. As for the crowdsourced information aspect, there's no reason to worry about inaccurate content. Anyone can add articles, but there's a certain amount of quality control, as all articles get reviewed by experienced community members.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how we decide what is "true" and worth putting in an encyclopedia. What makes a fact a fact?

  • Families can also check out local conservation efforts and pitch in.

  • For families interested in conservation check out our Going Green Online list of websites.

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