A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ology is the kids' science section of the American Museum of Natural History's website. On the site, kids can explore all kids of "ologies," from archaeology to zoology. If kids want to collect cards to complete projects, they'll need to register on the site, but signing up doesn't require any personal information. As far as substance goes, all the science-related information is accurate, but kids will have to look elsewhere if they want to dig deep into a subject. (Note: Ology uses Adobe Flash, and kids will need to turn off their pop-up blockers to get all the site's content.)
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What's it about?
OLOGY, the kids' website of the American Museum of National History, provides students with resources and related activities on a variety of topics, including anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, biodiversity, the brain, climate change, the earth, Einstein, expeditions, genetics, marine biology, paleontology, water, and zoology. Kids simply click a topic to go to its main page.
Each topic page provides a scrolling information bar called "Did You Know?" Topics may include a variety of interesting facts -- for example, "A black hole with the mass of the Earth would be about the size of a marble" or "Light has no weight and no mass." There also is a variety of games, activities, and informational texts about scientists who work in each field as well as links to museum exhibits on each topic. Kids can collect and save cards anytime they see a red asterisk on the site. Once they've accumulated enough, they can use the card images to create a digital story and compete to get into the Ology Hall of Fame.
Is it any good?
Ology is a mixed bag of science-based stuff. Tasks such as "What Makes You You? What Makes Me Me?" initially seem as if they're going to be interactive simulations. But they're simply screens of text to click through. "Scientists at Work" gives kids a peek into the life of a scientist, but, once again, kids only read text on a screen. A few tasks here and there ask for more interaction, such as "DNA Detective," in which kids match DNA codes extracted from handbags and other products to see whether they're made of different endangered organisms. There also are some solid suggestions for offline experiments, such as the "Jellybean Smell Test" and other simple activities. Although it's nice to have all these factual science resources in one place online, it may not amount to more than a digital version of a worksheet; more interaction could really boost the fun factor as well as kids' learning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the variety of careers available in science. They can compare the different careers portrayed in "meet-the-ologists" based on kids' strengths and interests.
Families also can talk about how the media portrays scientists. Are they often a certain type of person? Compare this stereotype to the scientists presented on Ology.
For families who want to know more about how media influences kids, check out Tips for Battling Stereotypes.
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