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JumpStart Animal Adventures is fact-filled, animal habitat exploration program. Users sign-in on a contest entry form, and are taken to one of four habitats: tide pools, temperate forest, rain forest, or savannah. There, they are challenged to find specific animals for a photo album, and to play several fact-based games. Completing a contest (i.e. finding all the specified animals in a habitat, and completing the games therein) generates a reward, like a printable description of how to make a home for a toad. Surprisingly to some of our parents, most of our young reviewers found these challenges to be attractive and captivating.
For example, in the temperate forest the user is given a brief overview of the habitat ("the weather here changes, and there are four seasons") then is reminded of the contest goals: find six specific animals in the forest - great horned owl, jumping spider, white-tailed deer, big brown bat, grizzly bear, and red fox -- and take their pictures.
Knowledge Adventure packaged a large number of categorized "factoids" into JumpStart Animals, in a manner that encourages their discovery. Clicking on animals causes them to explain some basic facts about themselves. Some go even further, offering a game activity that builds on an element relevant to the animal. For example, a "bat" game uses echolocation to find bugs; a beaver game has the user helping the animal build a dam; a deer game illustrates bucks fighting for their territory. Overall, the program has a clear educational focus.
JumpStart Animals proves once again that a program doesn't need a licensed entertainment character to be a hit with kids. Although it doesn't have the "shelf appeal" of programs that try to leverage popular children's characters, it has usage appeal, i.e. our young testers enjoyed the using program, and returned to it after initial play. Some were very much focused on completing one or more of the habitats, while others prefered focusing on some of the games.
JumpStart Animal Adventures seemed like it was going to be easy to install. Inserted the CD, clicked on 'install', accepted the license agreement, declined the desktop shortcut to the program to avoid clutter, only to be forced to accept a desktop icon for Knowledge Adventures website -Education.com. (Why do some software makers feel compelled to force users to visit their websites?). The program automatically checked to see if we had QuickTime installed (we did) , then asked the user to register electronically. We declined. Then click 'play' to get started. Total install time -- less than 2 minutes.
Then, a problem. The program told us, 'Please install the latest version of QuickTime." But we were already running version 126.96.36.199 -- and the program package stated that it requires QuickTime 5. Two questions... What do we need that we don't already have? And how do we install the latest version of QuickTime? When we installed JumpStart Animals, it did not give us the option of installing QuickTime; it told us we already had it. Now when we try to look on the CD for a QuickTime installer, we discover that we have to disable Windows autoplay feature to see what's on the CD. Nothing labeled QuickTime, and nothing in the help file, so we go to Apple's website (they publish QuickTime), and hunt for QuickTime to see if there is a newer version than what we have. After first agreeing to disable a number of security features on our machine's browser, we're finally told that there are "...software updates available. Would you like to download?" A few moments later, we discover that we now have QuickTime version 188.8.131.52. Total time elapsed from initial disk insertion = 15 minutes. What a pain.
Once installed, however, program navigation is intuitive, as are the exploration activities and learning games.
JumpStart Animal Adventures is a great introductory program for young children (4-7) interested in animals. Based on our experience, adult assistance may be required to install the program on some computers
PC: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP (administrator only), Pentium 233 MHz or faster cpu, 30 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, High color (16-bit) display, 12x or faster CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card, QuickTime 5, mouse.return to top of page
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