Science. Many of us wished we'd had more time in school for labs, experiments, and field trips. On the other hand, some of us might confess that we never really got it. Can software targeted at this subject meet the needs of today's students? SuperKids looked at six new titles this month, and found a wide variation in approaches, as well as specific topics.
Which is best for your child? Read below for brief descriptions, then click on the titles that interest you to see what our parent, teacher, and kid reviewers had to say.
Bill Nye the Science Guy - Stop the Rock [for 9 and up], from Pacific Interactive, provides a fun approach to using scientific methods to help Bill Nye and his team protect the Earth from an approaching meteoroid. Users must find the answers to seven riddles encompassing 20 learning objectives from the National Science Education Standards Manual. Not recommended for children with short attention spans.
CyberCrafts: Digital Lab [for 8 and up] from Philips Media, is a modern-day version of the venerable Heath Kit. Complete with an electronic work bench and a box of components, the user is taught about the underlying principles and technology, as well as afforded the opportunity to build more than a dozen projects that flash, buzz and count. A good parent-child activity program for those under 11, and a wonderful independent activity for the 12 to 15 year-old set. Manual dexterity and good direction-following skills are a must.
One Small Square Seashore [for 8 and up] from Virgin Sound and Vision, provides an introductory view of life found in and around a small plot of seashore. Best viewed as either a simple introduction to the topic, or as a supplement to a class, our reviewers felt the program was best suited for younger children.
SkyGazer [for 12 to adult] from Carina Software, is a sophisticated introductory astronomy program based on a database of over 4 million stellar objects. The program can identify and plot the positions of all these objects from anywhere on Earth, at any point and time. Somewhat like a 'planetarium in a box' but without a narrator. The program also includes 600 photographs and two dozen educational and interesting video clips, but lacks much of the material one would find in an introductroy text. Best for an older or more serious student.
Starry Night Deluxe 2.0 [for 12 to 18] from Sienna Software, is built on a similar database, but makes use of a more humorous, kid-oriented interface. While lacking the photos and videos of SkyGazer, it adds the ability to simulate views from anywhere in the solar system, and plot the paths of satellites. It too, however, lacks the descriptive material one would find in an introductory text. Best for younger or slightly less commited students.
The Way Things Work 2.0 [for 8 and up] from DK Multimedia, is based on the bestselling book by David Macaulay. An excellent reference guide for kids who want to know how things work, it includes links to related products, explanations of the underlying principles, and the people who invented them.
Take a look at the ratings tables below, click on the titles of the software you are interested in to see the complete review, or click on "PC" or "Mac" in the Buyers Guide column to see current market prices in our Buyers Guide.
Can't find what you want? Check out the complete list of all current reviews of Science Software.