- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 27, 2001

A childs thirst for knowledge can be quenched with one stop on the mighty information superhighway. The Learning Network has teamed up with Information Please (the almanac experts) to create an outstanding educational resource that combines a mad scientist´s passion for wisdom with a cartoonist´s eye for fun.

Fact Monster

Site address: www.factmonster.com


FactMonster.com was created by the editors at Information Please and is part of the Learning Network (www.learningnetwork.com), located in Boston.

Information Please (www.infoplease.com), founded as an NBC radio quiz show in 1938, started publishing the well-known Information Please Almanacs in 1947. They have been on the Web since 1998.

Creator quotable:

"From our years creating content for both adults and kids, we understood the needs for access to dictionary, almanac, encyclopedia, news and atlas content and realized the interest kids have in a one-stop, comprehensive resource," says Elizabeth Buckley Kubik, senior vice president at Learning Network.

"We are committed to offering information that is authoritative and facts that can be trusted. Plus, the site offers students and browsers alike original articles, games, quizzes, polls and daily features such as a word quiz and 'Today in History,´ so curious kids can explore more than homework facts and have some fun."

Word from the Webwise:

From the bizarre in 1981 a man in a bathtub was hurled almost a mile by a devastating tornado in Emberson, Texas to the fascinating the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces 38 million monetary notes a day with a face value of approximately $541 million Fact Monster immerses visitors in a world of information.

Using colorful pages, photographs, illustrations and distinct icons, the site gives 8- to 14-year-olds a well-respected resource designed to make research fun through easy-to-understand text, games and trivia.

A front page leads the inquisitive on an adventure through the sections "World & News," "U.S.," "People," "Word Wise," "Math," "Science," "Sports," "Cool Stuff," "Games and Quizzes" and "Homework Center."

Each area provides a search option, content culled from almanacs, special features filled with original articles, and a place to challenge the brain.

For example, children stopping by the "Science" section can reach a quick primer on the environment, animals, weather, astronomy, the body, computers and general topics such as roundups of recent discoveries, scientific classifications and the entire table of chemical elements.

The "More Features" area currently includes a page on sharks, cool science projects, panda babies, penguin sweaters and an online guide to dinosaurs, including the newest discoveries, a look at Tyrannosaurus Sue (who resides in Chicago´s Field Museum of Natural History), a review of the great brontosaurus hoax, myths about the extinct beasts and a species breakdown.

Many of the articles are peppered with linked words that take the student to even more interesting areas. In the sharks article, a paragraph on the "bump and bite" attack (when the shark circles its victim and bumps into him or her before attacking) mentions a plane crash that links to a list of serious aircraft disasters since 1921.

"Science" also has two question-based games, Space Hopper (about constellations) and Proton Dan (focusing on the periodic table of the elements), in addition to quizzes on disasters and dinosaurs.

Ease of use:

Fact Monster uses a combination of a search engine, menus and page navigation lists to let visitors know where they are in the site.

The site is updated continuously with such nuggets as "Today in History," "Today´s Birthday," "Word Quiz," "Weather Fact" and "Analogy of the Day." Additionally, spotlight articles, quizzes, polls and news from "Time for Kids"

Don´t miss:

Visitors should stop by the "Games & Quizzes" section to find more than 50 challenges ranging from a Pokemon crossword puzzle to a multiple-choice Harry Potter brain teaser. I really enjoyed the Math Baseball game (courtesy of FunBrain.com), which has players get hits and score runs by solving addition, multiplication, subtraction and division problems.

Family activity:

Children who see their parents´ old lava lamp might wonder how this miraculous melding of art and science has been accomplished. Fact Monster not only explains the theory behind the strange light source, but also offers directions on how to build one. With some common household items vegetable oil, water, food coloring, glitter and a small glass jar with a tight lid junior can relive mom and dad´s past.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Overall, Fact Monster presents a great resource that will keep students excited about the world around them for many hours. Parents should be aware that the site links to outside sources, so they might want to sit down with their children to monitor surfing habits.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. 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 own 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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