Garbage: The Inside Story describes the substances commonly found inside
trash. The software explores how glass, paper and plastic are made, what
happens to garbage once it is collected, and how waste can be recycled.
The program targets children between the ages of ten and fourteen and is
designed so that children can pick and choose options based on their
interests. On the opening screen of the program, children can choose to
study the substances found inside garbage or play a recycling word game
based on the knowledge they acquire through the program. Once children click
on the icon for the section that helps them learn about the components of
garbage, they can focus on the specific types of garbage - plastic, organic
waste, aluminum - that most interests them.
Garbage: The Inside Story includes animated talking characters, a dictionary of over two
hundred words and their definitions. The program presents its vast amounts
of information about garbage using technical and scientific terminology.
Garbage: The Inside Story teaches children how to describe garbage using chemical terms
and explains how garbage is processed and recycled. The software includes
information on the structure, processing and recycling of each type of
garbage. For example, the program describes and shows the chemical structure
of plastic and discusses the origin of aluminum. In addition, the
program includes short video clips about the origin of civilization and the
subsequent pressures placed by humans on their environment.
The assessment portion of the software includes a quiz and a recycling
game, which requires children to use the terminology they have learned
through their exploration of garbage.
Garbage: The Inside Story conveys content rather poorly. Though the animated characters talk
slowly, the information is not easily comprehensible. Many of the words the
characters use are beyond the understanding of children between the ages of
ten and fourteen. Though terms such polymer and bauxite are defined in the
program lexicon, children will most likely resent looking up words in a
dictionary every two minutes and will also not retain the information for an
extended period of time. In short, the wealth of information embedded in the
program is not particularly useful to children because the material is
overwhelming and explained poorly. A child could use the program in class if
the teacher created a list of terms and concepts for students to research
and also provided supplementary information explaining the large number of
concepts in the program that are complex and advanced.
Ease of Use / Install
To start Garbage: The Inside Story, insert the CD-ROM into the computer. The
program then installs and cues the user to install QuickTime. The program
interface is not intuitive. The screen is poorly-illuminated. Descriptions
of the icons only appear when a user runs his or her mouse over icons.
Without moving the mouse over the screen several times, a user may find it
difficult to figure out the various options from which he or she can choose.
Also, icons are surrounded by non-active graphics, and differentiating one
from the other is difficult. The forward, back and return to main menu keys
are also poorly-labeled. Children will most likely require adult supervision
if they are to gather information at any level of depth from the program.
Best for... / Bottom-Line
Self-motivated children who have a strong background in science and can
learn quickly by memorizing may most benefit from this program. Also
children assigned the task of writing a research paper or conducting a
science project on garbage recycling may find the information in this
program useful. The program is not particularly fun, intuitive or clear for
an average child between the ages of ten and fourteen. A well-illustrated
book with simple, clear descriptions combined with a hands-on composting
project would more successfully achieve the goal of educating a child about
garbage and recycling than this software.