Teacher Makes Biology entertaining.(FAMILY TIMES)(WEBWISE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

I always found the science of living organisms entertaining in a 60-minute class in high school, but I doubt most students would agree. The concepts related to the growth, structures, functions and distribution of life, which almost always led to the dissection of a frog, left many of my peers dozing or repulsed.

A biology teacher from Colorado would like to change that. He has taken his love for the inner workings of creatures, cartooning and the World Wide Web and developed an interactive site to visually stimulate children about the exciting world of biology.

Biology in Motion

Site address: www.biologyinmotion.com

Creator: Leif Saul, a free-lance Web designer and a part-time biology instructor at Front Range Community College in Boulder, Colo., created the site 4 months ago and solely funds it.

Creator quotable: "I created this site to make creative use of the special features of the Web medium in helping students to learn biology. As a biology teacher who's also an amateur cartoonist, I use cartoons to help explain concepts in class. Biology in Motion is the logical extension of that approach to the Web, but [it] also allows me to use my training in computer programming to add movement, interactivity and simulations of biological processes," Mr. Saul says.

Word from the Webwise: An opening screen that is simple but pleasing to view greets visitors seeking to unravel the mysteries of life. Mr. Saul leaves no surprises on the innards of his cyber-school, as all available learning modules spew forth down the center of the first page.

This animated laboratory houses 11 rooms for basic biology lessons, using slightly sophisticated design technology and easy-to-understand instructions. The sophomoric humor goblin in me immediately jumped at the chance to explore "Intestinal Gas," found under Cartoon Mini-Lectures.

A click of the text link takes visitors to a page labeled Digestive Track and a silly multimedia-enhanced illustration of a young boy looking queasy. In the illustration, the boy's colon appears at the bottom of the screen, filled with moving purple organisms "having a party" with carbohydrates. One can zoom in on the festivities for an added snicker.

Information accompanying the text explains how gut microbes work in the large intestine. When these microbes get overwhelmed, they mass-produce quickly, leading to the creation of some nasty gases. This type of presentation - which exists throughout as large, colorful cartoons - is reinforced with no-nonsense text to get the educational point across.

Other modules are a bit deeper in content, and I really enjoyed the Evolution Lab, which uses 20 circular blue life forms with grabbers on their heads to explain natural selection. …