Cool Sites on the Net

Unusual and interesting things to do on the internet.

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by Andrew Stringer

Like the story of the blind men and the elephant (www.mcps.k12.md.us/curriculum/socialstd/grade7/india/Blind_elephant.html), the Internet has become many things to different people; "it's a source of information", cries one, "no, it's entertainment", cries a second, "it's a huge shopping mall", yells a third, and so on...   well it's all of these and more.  In this article I will try to scratch the surface of the tip of that iceberg called the World Wide Web (WWW).  These days getting access to the Internet (of which the WWW is just a part) is simple if you have a computer with a modem installed, and most modern ones already have one built in.  All you need then is to setup your computer so that it can connect to the Internet via a phone line.  This is a very simple task, thanks to the rise of "free access" schemes that are proliferating in the UK at the moment.  If you are not connected already just pick up one of these "free access" CDROMs from places like Dixons, Tesco, Toys R Us, and many many more places.  Once you are setup and connected the world is your oyster!  Your main ways of communicating on the Internet will be by either electronic mail (email) and a WWW Browser, which will probably be either Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator.  I shall deliberately restrict my endeavors to bring you a selection of some of the more interesting sites that offer a rich content of information and entertainment aimed at primary school children, parents and teachers.

Lets start off with an award winning site that has gained a great reputation is Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators (discoveryschool.com/schrockguide/).  This is a great site full of ideas for lesson plans and activities for children of all ages.  Tip:  in the US the "elementary schools" sometimes referred to as "K-6" schools are the same as our Primary Schools.

Another site packed with really interesting information and projects for children of all ages is the Kids @ NationalGeographic.Com (www.nationalgeographic.com/kids/).  Tip:   This is a leading edge site with lots of multi-media.  You will probably need the latest version of either Netscape or MS Internet Explorer and may need to download extra plugins.

One of my favourite sites is "The Yuckiest Site on the Internet" (www.yucky.com).  In a similar vein to the popular "Horrible Histories" books, this site lets kids learn about a variety of topics such as; the dirt earthworms eat, all about cockroaches, all about eyeballs.   Their parent's resource centre has some very useful tips on safe Internet use for kids.   There are plenty of quizzes, competitions, teacher's resources, links to other sites and you can send some really yucky electronic postcards to your friends!

There are some great games, play activities, mazes, colouring pages, and stories from around the world as we follow the exploits of a pair of zany dogs, Boowa and Kwala (www.boowakwala.com) around the world to search for Kwala's family.  This month (May) they're visiting China.   You can also mail your own drawings to Boowa and Kwala and they'll display them on their site.  Tip:  If you have the Flash 3 plugin installed use the "Flash 3 version" of the site - it has some really cool animations.  If you don't know, or understand what Flash is, then use the "Gif version" part of the site.

As bed time approaches children may appreciate a story time with a difference.  Point your browser towards "Whootie Owl's Stories to Grow By" (www.storiestogrowby.com).  There are plenty of stories to choose from: adventures, animal stories, fairy stories, stories about values such as friendship, cooperation, generosity and racial harmony.  All stories are downloadable for teachers to use in the classroom and kids can record their comments on the site about stories that they have read.

If it's some red-hot action you want, try taking a look at some active volcanoes - LIVE.  You can see a list of volcanoes with video cameras (webcams) watching them at vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/LivingWith/volcano_cams.html.   Tip: don't expect great billowing flames and explosions, though Mount Etna (www.iiv.ct.cnr.it/files/cam_etna.html) may prove interesting!

For a different slant on this term's Year 1 and 2 topic go and see the Native Americans and the Environment (www.conbio.rice.edu/nae/).  There are hundreds of links from this site to other sites of interest.

Genetic engineering gone mad?  That's certainly one way of looking at E-Play (www.eplay.com) a site where bugs Sasha, Malcolm, Tatsuo and Ali have had their genes merged with four rather exceptional teenagers.  Together they do battle against the evil Dr XED.  Their stories take us through our world's history with plenty of links off to other sites.  There are plenty of teacher's resources here too.

Budding astronomers should go and check out the "Encyclopedia Astronautica" (www.rocketry.com/mwade/spaceflt.htm).  This is a site packed with information about space flight.  There are plenty of pictures and information on just about every vehicle that has been in space.  There's also many links to other sites of interest and a dictionary of space terms.

Imagine for a moment a site designed to help you manage your kids better. It would include a calendar that you could share with all your kids' friends, teachers, coaches, and friends' parents.  Because it was an online application, all those people would have access to the same information, no matter where they were.  The site might have a spot for teachers to post homework assignments and grades, a place for coaches to place practice and game schedules, and a place for friends to plan events together.  Sound like the distant future?  Well Tamagawa Gakuen School in Machida, Tokyo is already doing this and more!  (You can see their site, if you have a Japanese enabled browser, at www.tamagawa.ac.jp/chatnet/).

Tip:  On submitting personal information over the Net.   Treat this like you would talking to a stranger.  On the Net check out a site's privacy policy - most good sites will have one (usually a link near the bottom of the page), be wary if they don't.

Other useful resources (a full list can be seen at www.pendle.net/Kids/links.htm):

BBC Schools Online www.bbc.co.uk/education/schools A library of interactive learning resources for children at home and school.
Virtual Teacher Centre vtc.ngfl.gov.uk Lots of government resources for teachers, including links to curriculum resources
National Grid for Learning www.ngfl.gov.uk The UK government site to help raise standards in education and support lifelong learning.  Contains lots of links to other sites, a search engine to find specific resources, and much more.
DFEE National Curriculum www.dfee.gov.uk/nc Want to see what the National Curriculum is all about?  Go and see at the Department For Education and Employment's site.
National Year of Reading www.yearofreading.org.uk It's the National Year of Reading this year!  Find out about it here.
EduWeb www.eduweb.co.uk UK site with resources for teachers and pupils.
Story Arts www.storyarts.org About story telling in the classroom.  Has lesson plans, curriculum ideas and a story library.
RAN Kid's Corner www.ran.org/kids_action Rainforest Action Network.  Resources for teachers, parents and children about why and how we should preserve our rain forests.
Performing Arts in Primary Schools www.schoolshows.demon.co.uk/primary.htm Great (only?) online resource for drama in primary schools.
T2 Online www.t2online.com New site launched by the Daily Telegraph featuring a broad appeal to all children.
Gulistan Primary School www.angelfire.com/sc/gulistan/primary.html See what a primary school in Pakistan is doing on the Net.
Excite Family www.excite.com/family A web site that packs in lots of information about parent & child related matters - discussion boards too.
PBS Kids www.pbs.org/kids/fungames/techknow Fun and games to educate the young Netizen!
Crayola www.crayola.com Lot's of great fun here with colours.  There are plenty of pictures to colour in on the site and ones that you can print out and colour.  You can visit the factory online and see how crayons are made.

 

Note:  These sites were alive and active at the time of press.  That is no guarantee that they are still alive as you read this - that is the nature of the Internet in these times.  Sites appear and disappear for a whole variety of reasons such as; the author moving on to something else or the site hasn't paid its bills.

It is always advisable for parents and/or teachers to check the suitability of sites prior to allowing children access.

Though we have taken every reasonable care in choosing these sites, neither the author nor Lancashire Family Magazine or any of its staff either endorse or accept responsibility for any of the content on these sites which may have changed since these sites were reviewed.

 

This article can be viewed online at http://www.pendle.net/kids

 


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Last modified: August 19, 2004