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spacer all reviews > > > science software

Nature Virtual Serengeti

Grolier Interactive

Ages 6 to 12

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
Kid Appeal
Ease of Use

Nature Virtual Serengeti Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

Based on the “Nature” public television series, this program offers kids a chance to visit and explore the African Serengeti Plain. The scene is set by a letter to field scientist Dr. Elgin Carp from “Nature” series host and executive editor George Page. In his letter, George expresses his delight at having an opportunity to work with Dr. Page on the upcoming “Nature” video documentary. He advises Dr. Page that he will be sending his research assistant to help complete the necessary fieldwork on animal behavior. He will also be sending a special video recorder to document the results of their exploration.

Fortified with wishes of ‘safari njema’ (have a good safari), the user is set loose to explore. Unfortunately, the good Dr. Carp has been delayed elsewhere, so it quickly becomes a solo expedition. Thankfully, research tools abound. A Field Guide, filled with abundant information on animal species, behavior and habitats is available at all times. It is through this Field Guide that the user receives email messages relating to the safari and to the progress of the “Nature” video. A compass tool provides the user with easy access to the various locations of importance in the Serengeti Plain. Finally, the good Dr. Carp, although ominously absent, has thoughtfully planned out all the necessary research in his journal. By completing the six research studies outlined in this journal, the user will obtain all the video footage and investigation notes necessary to complete the “Nature” documentary.

Educational Value
This program is filled with topic-specific information. The Field Guide contains entries for each of the animals and areas observed. As the user explores the safari site, s/he discovers over 150 animals, viewed through real-life videos of these animals in their native environments. Also provided are videos of the indigenous people and their normal surroundings. The science journal resembles a workbook, that must be completed by dragging stamp-sized still shots from each of the collected videos to the correct place in the journal.

When all six field studies are completed (i.e., the journal pages are filled), the film production is finished. User progress can be checked on the Nature Film Page in the back of the science journal.

Kid Appeal
Our kid testers were at first frustrated by the work involved in this program -- they didn’t want to have to hunt for the animals. The program looked too much like schoolwork. Once they figured out exactly what to do, however, they enjoyed the experience. Those who like animals (which encompassed a large percentage of the group) were delighted with the real-life videos, and were pleased that these videos are permanently stored in the video recorder tool, accessed through the science journal. “I like watching my favorite videos over and over,” mentioned one tester. “My favorites are all the big cat videos.”

Ease of Use / Install
Nature Virtual Serengeti installs without difficulty on Windows machines. It requires Quick Time 3.02, which can be installed from the program CD.

The creators of this program added features to make navigation less awkward for the student. The compass tool includes a map that allows the user to better conceptualize his or her current location. It gives an overview of the site, marking past routes and revealing areas that have yet to be explored. Once a spot has been discovered and visited, returning to that location can be down with a click. This helps eliminate the frustration of blindly traveling in circles that can occur in programs of this type.

Also beneficial is the “Help” portion of the program which can be accessed through the Field Guide tool. We recommend that users read through this before beginning a safari, and then take a second look if they are finding the program difficult to use.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
This virtual safari contains just the right mix of information and entertainment in the form of beautiful animal videos. Animal lovers will especially enjoy uncovering the many species in their natural habitats. Teachers might want to include this program as an addition to their science curriculum.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other science software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and the Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 95/98, 133 MHz or faster cpu, 16 MB RAM, 640x480 display capable of displaying thousands of colors, 6X or faster CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card.

Mac: System 7.1 or higher, 120 MHz PowerPC or faster cpu, 16 MB RAM, 8 MB of available RAM, 640x480 display capable of displaying thousands of colors, 4X or faster CD-ROM.

Reviewed on:

  • PowerMac 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
  • Pentium166 with 24MB and 12XCD
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