A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spongelab is a place where kids can explore all kinds of science information and get rewarded for their efforts in the form of points. Kids will be joining a community of science-minded individuals, and, although most of the interactive content is geared toward older kids and teens, younger kids can still enjoy the cool images and videos.
What's it about?
SPONGELAB provides free interactive science and math education resources. This includes games, videos, animations, case studies, lesson plans, and quizzes. Kids will register with an email address, a password, and some demographic information such as what country they're in. Once logged in, they can click the Explore tab to find content by subject and language or see what's been uploaded recently, from an image of a wheat harvest to a simulation called Build-a-Solar-Cell. Teachers also can put their own lessons on the site and have kids follow them online. Credits, points, and badges are awarded liberally, but it takes quite a few to purchase an item like the Fish DNA Barcoding kit in the Spongelab Marketplace.
Is it any good?
Spongelab provides interactive simulations, videos, and images all with the honest aim of teaching kids science with a host of multimedia content. It's got its heart in the right place, but it seems that for every good quality, there's something the site could improve on. Some games, like Biochem Gems, appear flashy and fun at first glance but ultimately aren't so intuitive and don't have that much learning value. Other activities, like the supercool Genomics Digital Lab, show promise but are slow to load (plus, kids have to navigate through several menus to play). Build-a-Cell has great graphics but isn't that fun; you simply drag and drop images into a cell. Knowledge Mine lets you answer biology trivia questions, but there's a technical glitch that causes the images to block the answer button. Frustrating! If Spongelab could fix all these annoying little bugs, they'd have an outstanding science resource on their hands.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ways their lives have been affected by science, math, or technology -- for example, the flu, a broken leg, or a major weather event.
Spongelab offers cash awards to students who come up with their own STEM-related game ideas. Ask your kids if they have any ideas for fun simulations.
Interactive games, videos, and images help kids figure out science and math concepts. Ask your kid what helps them learn best.
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