American Museum of Natural History
(212) 496-3553--Ages 7-11

      The OLogy website of the American Museum of Natural History is a big, bright, colorful and kid-friendly interactive environment, where children can explore the world of the ologies...and it's free!
     At OLogy, children can play games and earn Ology science cards, meet real ologists, ask questions, and read feature stories as they dig into topics that interest them, including paleontology, astronomy, genetics, biodiversity, physical science, marine biology, archaeology and earth science. Implementation of the latest multimedia plug-ins (Flash MX and Shockwave--downloadable for free at the site), which load fairly quickly over a 56K modem connection, makes this a website kids will find compelling. Most importantly, children can make use of the vast resources of the Museum--its collections, expeditions, exhibitions and scientific staff.
     Included on the website are sections entitled, "For Educators" and "After-School Guide for Educators," where teachers can find materials aligned to Standards Correlations.

Numbers UP! 2 Baggin' the Dragon
EdAlive 61 2 6776 0200 (Middle School Math)

     This wonderfully entertaining BESSIE winner has a fairly simple concept--the board game.  But it offers so much more!  A solo player can challenge the computer, or one to three humans of different skill levels and ages, on a level playing field. It allows each player to pick a math level that is appropriate to their skill.  A five year old could easily win from a fifteen year old (but playing the computer is a different story).
     Based on Australian Math Syllabi (which are not terribly different from the US or anywhere else in the English speaking world for that matter),
Baggin' the Dragon has over 3000 questions, from Basic Math through Algebra. This hybrid (Win/Mac) title has terrific graphics, lots of strategy options, and moves quickly--even mathphobes will enjoy it.
     While an automatic leveling function would be welcome (particularly in classrooms), this title is worth the wait when ordering from Australia.  Good on ya, mates!

I Spy Spooky Mansion Deluxe
Scholastic (800) SCHOLASTIC (Ages 6-10)

     Everyone loves the I Spy games, but this year's 2005 BESSIE for Upper Elementary Language Arts takes the game to marvelous new heights.  We've lost track of how many iterations of I Spy Scholastic has released over the years, improving each incrementally. I Spy Spooky Mansion Deluxe, with 50 % more riddles and two new adventures, greatly enhanced graphics and sound, and so much more, is the cream of the crop.
     While Scholastic rates
Spooky Mansion for ages 6-10, our judges (adults all) thought the puzzles might frustrate the early elementary set, and the spooky setting might be a little too much for some younger children. But children older than 10 could still get a lot out of this 'brain-building' title.
     On the learning side of the I Spy games, these riddles boost problem solving skills, help develop reading ability, reinforce visual memory, build logic and reasoning, and improve vocabulary.  Any game that can deliver that much educational punch and also be tons of fun is clearly a winner!

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