What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the Exploratorium website is a science website from the San Francisco museum of the same name. Kids don't need to register to use the site; the videos, interactive exercises and other features are free. Users are encouraged to follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites to post comments and interact with other fans -- but can't comment on each and every section of the site. Many of the videos, for example, on the site don't include comment functionality.
What kids can learn
Language & Reading
- following directions
- reading comprehension
Thinking & Reasoning
- solving puzzles
- academic development
Engagement, Approach, Support
The interactive games are well-designed, and both the Web-based and printable resources for at-home activities are attractive and full of graphics. Video clips and written passages cover topics of high interest to young people.
Some activities are inquiry-based, requiring a prediction before kids perform experiments. Text passages and videos are aligned to science curricula. Many activities lack feedback, and there’s limited opportunity for collaboration.
What's it about?
A clear goal of this Bay Area museum's website is to reel people in so they come in person. Teaser messaging for exhibits and plugs for upcoming activities run throughout. Parents and kids can find short interactives and eye-catching downloadable PDFs that walk kids through experiments and activities that are at the museum. In one activity, kids follow step-by-step instructions about how to rig up a homemade marble machine.
Is it any good?
The EXPLORATORIUM website -- the online component of the San Francisco-based museum of science, art and human perception -- claims to feature more than 25,000 pages of content with videos, science-related projects, exhibit highlights, and more. You can access all the info by choosing your general interest group -- options include teens, parents, scientists, and geeks -- or by selecting a subject matter (such as culture or the human body). Whichever method kids use to move around the site, its offerings will undoubtedly help increase their appreciation of science.
Kids can learn the physics of skateboarding, guess which embryo is human, create a photogram, and more. The site's sizeable content is actually almost its biggest drawback: There are so many subject-centered microsites that kids may find themselves constantly clicking away from the central website. However, given all the engrossing info, it's unlikely that having to hit the back button a few times will really stop -- or even slow down -- kids' quest for science info.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what science is, and why it's fun to learn about. Many of the topics on the site may not seem like science at first. What's the science angle in the skateboarding section? How does the culture section of the site involve science?
If you register for a message board on the site, other users may be able to see your email address, AIM name, Skype ID, and more. Why wouldn't you want other message board users to know any of that information -- even if they don't know your real name? Talk about the importance of protecting your privacy online.
The comments you post on a message board on this site appear instantly -- no one checks the content to make sure it's OK to post. What kind of personal information shouldn't you say because it might put you in a risky situation with someone you don't know?