I always found the science of living organisms entertaining in a 60-minute class in high school, but I doubt most students would agree. The concepts related to the growth, structures, functions and distribution of life, which almost always led to the dissection of a frog, left many of my peers dozing or repulsed.
A biology teacher from Colorado would like to change that. He has taken his love for the inner workings of creatures, cartooning and the World Wide Web and developed an interactive site to visually stimulate children about the exciting world of biology.
Biology in Motion
Word from the Webwise:
This animated laboratory houses 11 rooms for basic biology lessons, using slightly sophisticated design technology and easy-to-understand instructions. The sophomoric humor goblin in me immediately jumped at the chance to explore “Intestinal Gas,” found under Cartoon Mini-Lectures.
A click of the text link takes visitors to a page labeled Digestive Track and a silly multimedia-enhanced illustration of a young boy looking queasy. In the illustration, the boy’s colon appears at the bottom of the screen, filled with moving purple organisms “having a party” with carbohydrates. One can zoom in on the festivities for an added snicker.
Information accompanying the text explains how gut microbes work in the large intestine. When these microbes get overwhelmed, they mass-produce quickly, leading to the creation of some nasty gases. This type of presentation which exists throughout as large, colorful cartoons is reinforced with no-nonsense text to get the educational point across.
Other modules are a bit deeper in content, and I really enjoyed the Evolution Lab, which uses 20 circular blue life forms with grabbers on their heads to explain natural selection.
A simulation can be activated showing how capturing a food supply will lead to mutations and survival of the fittest. Computer surfers can set various parameters and study the scenarios by using bar graphs and dumping data into a spreadsheet for further analysis.
Students also will appreciate the lively lessons on the role of bile in digestion, the cardiovascular system, cell division and the functions of kidneys.
Finally, Mr. Leif offers an area of relief from the learning in his “About Me” section. Toward the bottom of that page, 16 games he designed can be found. They range from a bubble-popping variation of Tetris to a more complicated Pac-Man using a digging gopher to destroy tumor cells while avoiding macrophages reminiscent of Asteroids.
Ease of use:
For example, under Animal Cell, students have a list of 20 words that must be placed together properly or put in the trash if not relevant. So the terms chromatin, nuclear envelope and nucleolus would be dragged over nucleus while chloroplast would be dumped.
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, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (firstname.lastname@example.org).