- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first used the words “United Nations” in 1942 as part of a declaration to unite 26 countries against the Axis powers. The phrase stuck, and three years later, an organization was formed to promote international cooperation while working to achieve peace and security around the world.

As part of celebrating its 50th anniversary, the United Nations developed a Web site in 1996 to present its missions to students who might one day make the world a better place.

United Nations Cyberschoolbus

Site address: www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/index.html

Creator: The Global Teaching and Learning Project, which works out of the U.N. headquarters in New York City, maintains the site.

Creator quotable: “The site provides students and teachers with information about the interconnected nature of global issues hunger, poverty, land mines, health, human rights, etc. while encouraging active participation toward creating solutions to the world's problems by taking action,” says Bill Yotive, project manager of the Global Teaching and Learning Project.

Word from the Webwise: With a mission to provide engaging content about important issues facing the world, the Cyberschoolbus should capture the attention of any social studies class or person wondering about the cultures and problems of the world.

Visitors can choose from six languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic) as they work their way through 36 areas that include first-person narratives, lesson plans, notices of upcoming events, quizzes, facts and features.

The opening page's standard three-column format highlights the site's four primary sections Resources, Quizzes and Games, Curriculum, and Community while spotlighting a few new U.N. projects, including the recent special session on children, with diaries from two youngsters and 20 Webcasts of meetings.

Starting with Resources, I quickly found a history of the United Nations; a list of responsibilities for its 25 agencies; 20 briefing papers created for students; and a tour of the United Nations' buildings, main bodies and some of its artwork along with a 360-degree virtual view of the Security Council chambers. The briefing papers tackled topics such as children soldiers.

A look at Curriculum revealed a gold mine for educators. The 11 modules, all with different designs, should motivate students 10 to 18 years old to investigate numerous international issues.

One of the more compelling, Schools Demining Schools, looks at the deadly problems caused by land mines. These devices are scattered through 68 countries and kill or maim 2,000 people every month.

The intention of the project is to gather schools and students around the world to help de-mine school grounds and playgrounds in mine-infested countries while raising consciousness about the problem in their own communities. The module provides a fact sheet, opinions from students, personal accounts, current campaigns for the mines' disposal and three teaching units.

In Community, students are given a chance to interact and react with the world. They can see images of how a peace flag might look, read about how 10 young people feel about living in Denmark as ethnic minorities, and peruse bulletin boards and a substantial events calendar that marks country and U.N. anniversaries.

I saved Quizzes and Games for last and found a fun way to spend an afternoon, with simulations ranging from an interactive map for discovering the importance of water to a simple flag-matching game to a multiple-choice health test that teaches about how people catch colds and who invented the first vaccine.

I especially enjoyed the section's cyber-cartoon, Pook in the World, which takes a little girl on an animated learning adventure to help save the planet. Pook wants to be a superhero, and after interacting with numerous folks players click various hot spots on illustrated images to talk to characters she decides to take on a mission to save the village Hereandnow from a disease epidemic.

Ease of use: Designed for low- and high-bandwidth users, the site should display on every browser and operating system. The Macromedia Flash plug-in is necessary for a few features. I did notice that some secondary menu links were not working, and that will frustrate some because a site map is found only on the front page.

Don't miss: Country information abounds under the Resources section. Junior geographers will appreciate an interactive world map that has a zoom feature. It provides a country's name when the cursor passes over an area and gives a detailed profile when an area is clicked on.

I also enjoyed the data-crunching InfoNation found under Resources, which allows students to compare the statistics of five countries, side by side, with a few clicks of the mouse. It offers only the 189 U.N. member nations but can look at economy, environment, health, technology, size and population.

Family activity: The Cities Curriculum module gives the whole clan a chance to think about creating the ideal environment in any format imagined from a diorama to an illustration. The site has background on some of the best places in the world, successful urban projects, information on infrastructure and six units exploring the genesis of the city.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Home-schoolers and classroom students will enjoy spending many hours traveling through an international information highway aboard a Cyberschoolbus containing fun stops and ways to interact with the world.

Overall grade: B

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 (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).


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