- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 18, 2004

Coin collecting provides a rich history of the world and potentially lucrative hobby for the numismatist in the family as he acquires pieces of engraved metal from diverse countries and ancient civilizations.

To assist the younger collector on his quest, the U.S. Mint took a 1997 presidential mandate to “enrich the Internet as a learning tool” and birthed an educational cyber stop in 1999. The site combines free resources for educators and a myriad of multimedia activities for children to raise appreciation for the coins used every day and for the teaching tools that the coins can be.

H.I.P. Pocket Change

Site address:www.usmint.gov/kids/

Creator: The U.S. Mint, founded in 1792 and headquartered in Washington, developed and maintains the site.

Creator quotable: “We are extremely proud of our educational children’s site. When children hold a new coin from the Westward Journey Nickel Series or the 50 State Quarters Program, they hold a small piece of history, art and culture in their hands. H.I.P. Pocket Change helps children appreciate the unique part that coins play in our nation’s heritage,” U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore says.

Word from the Webwise: H.I.P. stands for “history in your pocket,” and the site does a fantastic job in offering a wealth of interactive information on the U.S. brand of metallic currency and the use of coins throughout their existence.

An animated presentation on the front page allows visitors to move their mouse point over multicolored coins representing the sections Games, Cartoons, Time Machine, Coin News, Camp Coin, Teachers and About Us as a floating box moves to the center of the screen to describe each.

Sections are also hosted by such characters as Plinky the Mint Pig, Nero the Mint Police Dog and Goldie the Mint Fish, who guide children through enlightening, colorful and fact-filled pages.

For example, Peter the Mint Eagle spearheads one of the site’s more impressive offerings as he and his pals take visitors on a journey in his Time Machine. The journey covers the history of the United States and its connection to its coins spanning 10 periods, from 1667 through today.

Peter has the child first pick a time frame, introduces him to a mystery, has him pick proper attire for the period and, through illustrated pages, text and sound effects, has him learn about a topic.

In the case of 1667, visitors (with the help of Flip the Mint Seal) get a lesson on the Pine Tree shilling, which was minted by the American Colonists even after Britain declared it illegal. The Pine Tree shilling, made in Boston, was minted so that commerce could continue in the states.

Children will use an X-ray telescope to view inside the bowels of a ship and answer multiple-choice questions on the time period, and they can click on icons to learn more about the Salem witch trials, Pilgrims and King Charles’ closing of the secret Boston mint.

Other areas around the site definitely worth a look include an interactive cartoon showing the birth of a coin, a timeline on the U.S. Mint, a Coin Collector’s Workshop loaded with tips for the young numismatist, an online coin coloring simulation and a presidential quiz using the coins that honor them.

Ease of use: Visitors need the Macromedia Flash player and the Adobe Acrobat document reader installed within a JavaScript-enabled Browser to have the best access to all the site’s features.

Don’t miss: One of the better and more time-consuming challenges found under the voluminous Games section has visitors help Bill the Mint Buffalo explore the United States. In the process, they learn about the states and new quarters minted in their honor.

The game involves choosing one of three difficulty levels and earning quarters by answering multiple-choice questions, matching quarter to design and identifying states by shape.

Collected coins are then used to purchase stuff for Bill, such as luggage and a mode of transportation to get him on his way. As a final creative extra to the process, players can even print out personalized postcards from Bill that can be colored away from the computer.

Family activity: The site provides numerous resources for away-from-computer fun. Lesson plans (some with reproducible worksheets), crossword puzzles, instructions for earning a Boy Scout merit badge in coin collecting and plenty of downloadable coloring pages are available.

Additionally, and most important, the site should spark an interest in coin collecting — one of the world’s oldest hands-on activities.

Cybersitter synopsis: H.I.P. is easily one of the best sites I gave seen that integrates learning with an enormous amount of engaging activities. Kindergartners, with parents help, through eighth-graders will spend hours working through the enormous amount of coin-related pages.

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]washingtontimes.com).

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