- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2004

Students can now take a virtual part in mushing a team of dogs across a frozen tundra in the northern Canadian wilderness. Through a cyber stop that looks to educate and astound, a site allows users to interact with 31 polar huskies and an international team of six educators and explorers in a real-life adventure.

Dubbed Arctic Transect 2004, this educational exploration of Nunavut offers an excellent online classroom for teachers and their classes but balances its site with enough content to give the curious visitor plenty of chances to travel through a chilly world.

Polarhusky.com

Site address: www.polarhusky.com

Creator: Polarhusky.com is a joint venture between the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota and Nomads Adventure and Education.

Creator quotable: “Polarhusky.com is an online classroom tied to an annual Arctic expedition. This year’s program, Arctic Transect 2004, uses the allure of an exciting Arctic dog-sled expedition and Arctic research as the vehicle through which K-12 teachers and students gain an understanding of science, social sciences, technology and the cultures of the Arctic through a free, comprehensive curriculum and online learning environment,” says Aaron Doering, education director of Arctic Transect 2004.

Word from the Webwise: Visitors can almost feel the sting of the below-zero temperatures encountered by the team as a snowy map paints on the site’s opening screen, highlighting the current status and route of the adventurers, notes on their daily travails and weekly journal entries as they continue on a 3,000-mile, seven-month investigation of Arctic climate changes.

Junior explorers in the family will find refuge in the Public Audience module of the site; the Teachers and Students module can be accessed only via passwords given to registered classrooms.

In the Public Audience area, I quickly found fascinating sections labeled Arctic Issues, Dogyard, Expedition and Nunavut, all offering plenty of photos, illustrations, maps and text-based information.

I looked to Dogyard for the cutest area of the site, which introduces the 31 pooches assigned the task of lugging the explorers across frozen lands. Each dog gets a page, and visitors will learn names and habits along with their lifestyles. Parents even can adopt a husky ($60 donation) and receive an official certificate.

The Expedition section provides a deep area of news and background on the adventure as visitors are introduced to each team member through a photo and interview, read weekly trail updates, enjoy a scrapbook loaded with movies such as “Huskies in Action” and audio clips of the Arctic, and view QuickTime VR 360-degree presentations of the surroundings visited.

Visitors can click over to Nunavut to get a cultural history of its people, specifically focusing on the Inuit tribes that have lived there for thousands of years, and stop by Arctic Issues to discover how humankind effects this polar region.

Ease of use: The site is compatible for viewing on both Macintosh and PC using Netscape 4.7 and Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher and needs the QuickTime plug-in. The site is enhanced when the user has the Macromedia Flash plug-in, but it is not required.

Don’t miss: Visitors can check out the Polar Husky A to Z online encyclopedia to find a bunch of “I didn’t know that” facts about the team’s bathroom habits, the significance of granola bars, what pingos are and a primer on snow.

Family activity: Web-savvy visitors can find the entire curriculum from last year’s adventure to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation through a bit of investigation. Available under Teachers and Students, follow the link Pimagihowin 2003 to the Teacher Lounge (www.polarhusky.com/2003/onlineclassroom/teacher/cag.htm) to download hundreds of pages in the PDF format on topics such as Nature in the Subarctic, Traveling on the Land and Spirituality. Each comes loaded with away-from-the-computer activities, learning outlines and resources.

Cybersitter synopsis: Lots of colorful images will give the home-schooler, classroom student and curious child a wonderful overview of man conquering an environment in order to learn about the planet.

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 ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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