- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

Teaching a new generation a different way of thinking can go a long way toward helping eradicate some of the world's serious problems.

One of those problems, the destruction of our environment, can be explained to children using numerous media outlets to help them understand the serious consequences of polluting or hurting wildlife. Of course, the Internet is the perfect conduit for getting a message across to those who will be responsible for the future upkeep of our planet.

A year-old site spreads the word about environmentalism with the assistance of a young girl with the spirit of Lara Croft and the tenacity of conservationist John Muir.

Miss Maggie's Earth Adventures

Site address: www.missmaggie.org


Miss Maggie's Earth Adventures was founded in 1999 in Ireland and has its headquarters in Middleburg, Va.

Creator quotable:

"The fundamental objective of the site is to ensure the material will appeal to children and provide them good information that will empower them to become decision makers in their own communities," says producer Mason Bryant Howard. "Furthermore, we also focused a great deal of attention on the supporting materials, making it easy for educators to incorporate the program into their curriculum."

Words from the Webwise:

Based on the real-life travels of environmentalist and philanthropist Magalen O. Bryant, Miss Maggie's Earth Adventures presents a multidisciplinary program developed to help educators teach lessons about the importance of the planet's ecosystem using computer-based and printable activities.

This colorful, interactive arena demands that visitors have a high-speed Internet connection to fully enjoy the intensity of the pages. The site uses an explorer motif and features several talking characters, dramatic music (think "Who Wants to be a Millionaire") photographs, cartoons, sound effects, text and games.

Clicking on the large red button on the front page reveals the site's primary sections, "Postcards," which contains items to print out; "Missions," which offers four of Maggie's undertakings; "Gallery," which highlights visitors' creations; and "Games," which showcases 17 challenges concentrating on math and language arts.

The dazzling portion of this cyber-stop can be found in the "Missions" section. There, children accompany Maggie on trips around the world by selecting one of four missions: "A Great Catch," "You Must be Choking," "Herd of Elephants: Part 1" and "Herd of Elephants: Part 2."

I selected "Great Catch," and after a dramatic, melodic punctuation, was taken to the beginning of the adventure.

Uncle Jay Jay (acting as a James Bond Q-type character) explains the mission objectives and the equipment needed for the trip. In this instance, Maggie needs to visit the Philippines with her dog, Dude, to check out a threefold problem: overfishing, pollution and damage to the coral reef.

I began by clicking on Maggie's video camera to see a four-part cartoon presentation. The four episodes are interspersed with games to reinforce the words or lessons discussed during the action. The cartoon combines a 1970s animation style with realistic backgrounds to display a surprisingly cool look.

The story finds Maggie on a real beach writing in her journal, then taking a dive to view a coral reef and eventually stopping the troublemaking Pacific Fishing Corp. from dumping cyanide into the water and destroying the underwater paradise.

The games featured between the episodes include a quick math challenge to count schools of fish, a word scramble using terms heard during the tale and a matching game based on the food chain.

Between cartoon segments, students can go back to Maggie's Log for a text re-creation of the cartoon and a few related entries such as the price of fish; click on her palm-top to hear some traditional Philippine music; click on a laboratory bowl to find recipes and experiments to try at home; or use her global positioning device to find more games and or read some facts about the country.

Ease of use:

Besides a high-speed modem (DSL, T1 or cable), visitors will need a computer compatible with the Macintosh operating system 8.1 or later or Windows 95 or later, Adobe Acrobat and at least the Flash 4 plug-in.

The site has a Spanish-language equivalent, and new missions are posted every four weeks. The next one will take place in Russia.

Don't miss:

The amount of fun stuff to do in Maggie's Adventures blew me away. Under the "Games" section, I liked "Around the World in 80 Seconds," which challenges students to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems as quickly as possible to help Maggie fly all over the planet.

Family activity:

The entire clan can find a wide array of projects to complete away from the computer. Under the mission "You Must be Choking," one can find a recipe for pretzels as well as experiments that use household items to teach about global warming and the effects of pollution.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Each mission takes about 60 minutes to fully explore, which should keep junior quite busy for at least an afternoon. Additionally, a "Teacher's Corner" features an avalanche of documents that can be printed using Adobe Acrobat that will work perfectly in a classroom or home-school environment. Overall, children should love hanging out with Maggie.

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.

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 ([email protected]).

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