- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2000

I hope the mention of science will never produce a yawn in my son. Given his dad's fascination with biology, chemistry and why things work, combined with the ability to follow incredible breakthroughs on the Internet, he should grow up wanting to learn the mysteries of the universe.
But not everyone has fallen in love with the theoretical explanation of natural phenomena. For those parents with offspring not jumping for joy when they renew the subscription to Discover magazine, a Web site has a possible way to get the educational juices flowing.
Funology.com just celebrated its one-year anniversary and gives children a chance to peruse a cyber-world of color, exploration and discovery.

Site address:



Funburst Media LLC, which consists of Brian Adams, JoAnn Adams and Mark Jefferson, runs the site from Centreville.

Creator quotable:

"One day last summer, I was driving through our neighborhood on a beautiful day and noticed that there weren't any kids outside playing," says Brian Adams, chief funologist at Funology.com. "That's when the idea for Funology.com really started a site that would get kids off the couch and help them use their imagination and skills to entertain themselves. We leapt into action and started the search for a cure to the 'Mom, I'm bored' syndrome."

Word from the Webwise:

Funology.com wants children to use their creativity and enthusiasm to make incredible stuff and perform amazing feats.
Taking no chances on what a child might find interesting, the staff uses ideas sent from children around the world. If anyone has a funny joke or an amazing magic trick and wants to share, he can send it to Funology.com. Ideas are then posted, giving first-name credit to the child who submitted them.
Presenting a virtual-arcade feeling within a cartoon environment, the site catches one's attention with eye-popping backgrounds, jiggling icons, spinning headlines and its mascot, a blue beagle bursting with curiosity.
Fun is No. 1 within the pages, and visitors can choose from eight main areas "That's Odd," "Brain Drains," "Boredom Busters," "The Laboratory," "In the Kitchen," "Abracadabra," "Tummy Ticklers" and "Hot Stuff" to put a smile on any sullen mug.
I would start with stretching the stomach muscles at "Tummy Ticklers." Jokes range from the standard "knock-knock" variety to poking fun at species around the world and even Ben Franklin.
Once relaxed, move to "Brain Drains" for a fantastic array of optical illusions, word searches, coded messages and quizzes. A simple drop-down menu is used to show the answers to questions and make a nice introduction to topics on geography, sharks, math, astronomy, measurements and inventors.
The real work begins in the sections "Boredom Busters," "The Laboratory," "In the Kitchen" and "Abracadabra." These sections are bulging at the seams with non-computer-related activities, including building coffee-filter butterflies, making a greenhouse, treating oneself to an edible aquarium or making a coin appear out of thin air.
Many of the primary sections branch off into areas that satisfy the entertainment quotient to the maximum. One definite place to hang out for a while, found under "Boredom Busters," borrows liberally from one of my favorite sites, BrainPop (www.brainpop.com), which is not affiliated with Funology.com.
Funology.com teams up with these masters of cartoony flicks to provide some of the coolest cinemas found on the Web. This area alone could consume hours of time as children explore 45 animated gems that look at topics such as cancer, hurricanes and the brain.
Finally, "Hotstuff" needs a bit more development but offers reviews of toys and books from some younger visitors to the site.

Ease of use:

This sharp-looking site needs more science and less flash to become the perfect learning environment. I appreciated the plethora of off-screen activities, stream of strange facts found under "That's Odd" (I had no idea the heart beats 100,000 times every day) and overall ease of navigation. Yet Funology.com has much more opportunity to help children learn than it realizes.
I enjoyed the printable dinosaur word-hunt puzzle, but couldn't the words have some sort of link to the definitions? It was neat to create paper airplanes, but why not display a link to the BrainPop movie on flight?
I was amazed that many experiments had no scientific explanation for their results. If a child can suck a hard-boiled egg into a bottle, it might be a good idea to explain to him why this is possible.

Don't miss:

Even though Funology.com encourages getting away from the computer, I am a sucker for video games. The site offers two on-line challenges, Robot Cafe and Alien Bounce, which use the Shockwave plug-in. Visitors can control a robot waiter as he serves cans of oil to his brethren on an assembly line (very Lucille Ball-ish) or help bizarre birds cross a river with an inner tube. I wasted way too much time with these silly simulations.

Family activity:

The site displays a cornucopia of projects, more than 200, that mom, dad and the entire household will enjoy trying out. I quickly jumped to the "In the Kitchen" section to create the delightful dish "hot dog creature." Simply slice a few dogs down the middle and boil them to create a strange, octopuslike specimen which, by the way, goes great with a little mustard or salsa.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Funology.com exists for children to immerse themselves in having a good time. I rarely saw outside links or heavy-selling advertising banners. Pages have a dynamic quality to them, and children through middle school should be sufficiently mesmerized.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is changing constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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