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Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth
by Scholastic and Microsoft

For Ages 6 to 10

See also the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this title for the PC



Reviewed on:
Magic Schoiol Bus Inside the Earth screen shot Pentium90 with 8MB and a 2XCD

The Magic School Bus TV series on PBS is a hit with this age group. We wondered how a software episode would measure up with the kids. And for good measure, we asked one of our editors, who was a geologist in a previous life, to take a look.

Content
Six geologic settings (plus a classroom and the ubiquitous magic bus), six reports, four experiments, and 200+ clickable objects. Oh, and 8 games. This program has lots of content! But what about quality? According to our former rock jock, "Inside the Earth presents a surprising amount of information about the geologic processes that form our earth. Scholastic chose to present a broad overview that pretty well covers the major elements of the geologic cycle, including: plate subduction, volcanic activity, mid-ocean ridge crust creation, erosion, earthquakes, and mineralogy. With that breadth, of course, there are some limitations on depth, but none that present a serious weakness."

We asked if he "spotted any technical mistakes in the program?" He just smiled and said, "A few. But not any worse than what kids are likely to encounter in poor or out-dated textbooks."

Ease of Install / Use
The program installed without difficulty in all of our reviewers' machines. Most of the parents, however, reported that they found navigation within the program confusing without reference to the jewel-case instruction booklet. (Kids familiar with the earlier titles in this series reported no difficulties). Parents also reported an annoying volume change when several of the game activities started up. We should also note that this program is somewhat of a resource hog: 5 MB is the minimum amount of hard drive space needed by the program -- our testing lab reported over 10 MB used on their machine.

Methodology
Inside the Earth follows what is by now a standard formula for the Magic School Bus software series, closely mimicking the TV show. The program begins with a problem; Arnold has lost three rocks and one mineral from his collection -- so the class sets off on a field trip to find them inside the earth, utilizing their magic school bus. Before setting off, the user has a chance to check out the classroom, and learn an impressive number of fact snippets from the student reports strewn around the room. The user then becomes the bus driver, and gets a choice of destinations - here, any of the six geologic zones.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids measure of how well a program attracts and holds a child's attention. Inside the Earth scored very highly with two groups of kids - those with a previously expressed interest in things like rocks, fossils, volcanoes and earthquakes; and with fans of PBS' Magic School Bus TV series. Two of our parent reviewers reported they made the mistake of introducing the program to their kids an hour before dinner time -- and naively expected their children to come willingly to the table.

Best for...
Children with an interest in how the world around them was shaped.

Bottom-Line
Lots of content and ample opportunities for interactive learning. Excellent breadth of material presented. A great program to pique a child's interest in science.


See also the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this title for the PC



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1 or Win95
CPU Type and Speed 486SX25 or faster
Hard Drive Space 5 MB minimum
Memory (RAM) 4 MB (8MB recommended)
Graphics 256 Color SVGA
CD-ROM Speed 2X
Audio 8 bit sound board (16 bit recommended)
Other Needs mouse

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