Dinosaurs extinct? No way--they're big business! Here are seven programs that put the prehistoric facts in the hands of your students.
To a child, dinosaurs represent action and adventure, a direct link to the distant past when skyscraper-size animals dominated the earth's lush volcanic landscapes. Today, we have dinosaur lunch boxes, erasers, pencils, and much more. Parents and teachers often call on dinosaurs to show youngsters that learning is fun. Studying these prehistoric reptiles can stimulate an interest in paleontology and science, while promoting vocabulary, reading, writing, and research skills. Teachers even draw on dinosaur images when teaching math concepts such as "bigger than" and "smaller than" or arithmetic operations like adding and subtracting. Capitalizing on kids' insatiable quest for knowledge about these primeval beasts, software companies are offering an amazing assortment of programs that take young learners on fascinating scientific journeys back in time. This month, we look at seven of the best interactive dinosaur titles currently available.
DinoPark Tycoon (MECC)
DinoPark Tycoon (the only non-CD-ROM program reviewed here) is an engrossing and entertaining simulation that gives players a chance to establish and run a Dino Zoo. In the process of managing park business, youngsters can access an online database to uncover a variety of facts about 19 different dinosaurs, from the meat-eating 65-pound Coelophysis that lived during the late Triassic Period to the seven-ton carnivorous T-Rex that dominated the later Cretaceous Period. In addition to distinguishing among dinosaurs in terms of diet, climate, length, weight, and time period, entrepreneurs develop problem-solving strategies and practice math skills such as estimating, reading graphs, and forecasting.
Players are neophyte tycoons who receive bank-approved business loans to start a Dino Park. With this money, they must buy land, fences, dinosaurs, and food, and hire employees. They must also deal successfully with a number of business variables (such as park maintenance problems and unhappy employees) in order to keep the enterprise afloat. Players who are good financial managers can borrow more money to enlarge their business, while poor managers must sell off property to get back on their feet. A ledger keeps detailed records of business dealings (including ticket prices, animal inventory, employees, etc.) which kids can review regularly in order to set up a new business plan. If you want a computer program that develops an appreciation for science and the economic facts of life, DinoPark Tycoon is a great place to set up shop.
Dinosaur Discovery (Applied Optical Media)
This data-packed program takes a serious look at more than 150 dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, with detailed color illustrations, pronunciations, information screens, articles, and games. The main menu provides access to four research paths. Visitors can choose Dinosaurs to find a specific dinosaur by name; view its color illustration; and read about the animal's habitat, range, classification, diet, and size. The Bookshelf section lets users perform custom searches, locating dinosaurs by continent or site, size range, period, classification, or multiple data fields.
A third section, Topics, consists of five information options featuring an introductory essay on dinosaurs; a glossary; 24 narrated "chronicles" or slide shows on a variety of dinosaur subjects (such as extinction theories, habitat, physical characteristics, behavior, and plate tectonics); descriptions for 13 "associates" or dinosaur-related animals; and a "museum" with information on dinosaurs selected by previous visitors. An activities section contains three engaging dino-related puzzles and games.
Unlike the other titles, Dinosaur Discovery lacks video clips and animations; its many fact screens and articles can be printed, but cannot be saved to disk for use with other applications. …