Exploratorium

Common Sense Media says

Captivating site on everyday (and advanced) science topics.

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The site's emphasis on learning about science encourages kids to explore the world around them.

Violence

No punches are being thrown on the site, but some sections, like a step-by-step photo essay of a sheep brain dissection, may be too graphic for younger users.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

The site doesn't actively monitor the message boards, and posts appear instantly; however, users don't seem to be abusing the trust policy -- when we looked, boards like the Science of Cooking message board were free of harsh swear words.

Consumerism

An online store section of the site sells science kits, books, and other items. Proceeds help support the Exploratorium museum.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Mostly private. Some (but not all) areas feature message boards that require registration to post. To register, you need to submit a username, separate name to display on the board, and email address -- and you must be at least 13 years old. You can choose to hide your email address and other contact info in your profile settings. Users are encouraged to follow the museum on social media sites but participation is optional.

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

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • reading comprehension
  • following directions

Math

  • geometry
  • multiplication
  • algebra

Science

  • physics
  • astronomy
  • biology

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • logic
  • solving puzzles
  • hypothesis-testing

Self-Direction

  • academic development
  • initiative
  • motivation

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

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.

Learning Approach

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.

Support

You get no community or network in which students might interact with each other or experts. Limited help is available, but most activities are simple enough that kids won't need it.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • reading comprehension
  • following directions

Math

  • geometry
  • multiplication
  • algebra

Science

  • physics
  • astronomy
  • biology

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • logic
  • solving puzzles
  • hypothesis-testing

Self-Direction

  • academic development
  • initiative
  • motivation

Kids can learn something about astronomy, the human body, the brain, and other scientific principles through short interactives as well as beautifully presented examples and follow-along experiments. Cow eye dissections, sidewalk crack patterns, the connection between smell and taste -- even the most science-adverse visitors' curiosity will be piqued. Site navigation makes it evident that Exploratorium isn't intended to be a complete experience; the goal is for people to visit. A bit more interactivity and immersion for users would enhance this already terrific library of experiments.

This Learning Rating review was written by Erin Brereton

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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?

QUALITY
 

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?

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  • 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?  

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Website details

Genre:Educational
Price:Free
Pricing structure:Free

This review of Exploratorium was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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