Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Treehouse

Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Treehouse

Article excerpt

Hardware: MS-DOS computers (640K); hard drive; EGA graphics or better; mouse and joystick optional; supports PS/1 Audio/Games Option Card, Ad Lib, Disney Sound Source, Sound Blaster, and Tandy sound. (Macintosh and Apple II versions in development.) Grade level: K-4 Emphasis: Interdisciplinary (science, music, language arts, math). Publisher: Broderbund Software, 500 Redwood Blvd., Novato, CA 94948; (800) 521-6263. School edition includes: Either 5.25-inch or 3.5-inch disks; teacher's guide; user's manual; kid's guide; audiocassette with Treehouse theme music. Price: $69.95.

From the rap music on the cassette that ships with the program to the attractive graphics and delightful animation, The Treehouse is an eye-catching and kid-pleasing offering. This sequel to The Playroom, written for somewhat older students, takes place in a treehouse belonging to a pair of possums. Kids select one of the possums and use the huge on-screen arrow to help their new playmate explore the objects found scattered on the floor and walls. A click on the bag of nuts, for example, spills one onto the floor for the squirrels, while each click on the large cloud in the sky makes it change shape. It's even possible to drop things out of the treehouse and then go outside and find them lying around on the ground.

But, like The Playroom, this program is far more than click-and-explore: Four of the objects in the treehouse lead to educational games. The toy car transports students to the Road Rally racetrack to practice math. There they can play either a money game or a chips game, against a friend or against a robot controlled by the computer. To win at the money game, players must consistently choose correctly between trays of coins (those with the most coins may not contain the highest value). In the clip game, players practice regrouping skills as they are called upon to exchange one colored chip for ten of another color and vice versa.

Selecting the keyboard that stands in a corner of the treehouse sends the possum into a musical netherworld that's complex enough to be a stand-alone program. Students can compose music at the computer keyboard; listen to one of 20 pre-recorded songs played by a wide choice of instruments; or explore the orchestra, listening to digitized sounds of well-known instruments (as well as homemade alternatives and assorted animal noises). As if this weren't enough, there is also an entertaining maze game that challenges students to recognize musical patterns and identify a mystery song.

In the Treehouse Theater kids construct one-sentence "plays" by choosing from picture menus related to the four "W's" (WHO does WHAT, WHEN and WHERE). The computer then animates the sentence and, if it is equipped with the right sound hardware, even reads aloud each part of the sentence as the action is performed. Other options allow students to move the phrases around and add props to the scenes.

Activities in the Backyard Zoo are built around a huge database that includes 12 groups or classes of animals with several representatives of each group, and eight different traits (e. …

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