- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 2, 2004

The U.S. central bank, or Federal Reserve, has been overseeing monetary issues for the world’s most robust spending juggernaut since 1913. However, many children and even adults probably have little insight into the organization’s multiple functions and how its policies affect the average consumer.

A Web site works hard to solve the mystery of the Fed by revealing its inner workings through an interactive educational experience that makes economics an informative rather than befuddling experience.

Fed 101

Site address:www.kc.frb.org/fed101/indexflash.cfm

Creator: The site was developed by the Federal Reserve Board, located in the District, and is hosted on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Web site, out of Kansas City, Mo..

Word from the Webwise: Visitors looking to understand the delicate balance of dollars flowing through the United States, interest rates and the importance of solvent banks have come to the right spot. Through an animated sequence, they first enter the Fed 101 door and find the site’s front page while a serious music selection plays in the background.

Information can be found on the right side of the page (History, Structure, Monetary Policy, Banking Supervision and Financial Services) and in a group of clickable books lined up at the right side of the page. They’re titled Fed 101 at a Glance, Checks Mystery, Go Back in Time, Where’s the Money, Examiner for a Day, Fed Clue and Fed President Interviews.

Each offers a type of interactive textbook experience with numerous animated graphics, hot spots that reveal more text, online quizzes and occasional simulations to experience the Federal Reserve System at work.

Some of the more interesting cyber-segments include an almost-10-minute narrated walk-through of the site (Fed 101 at a Glance), which also quickly explains some of the Fed’s functions; an excellent timeline on the history of U.S. banking from 1775 to 2000 (Go Back in Time); and an animated walk-through of the check-cashing process (Checks Mystery).

Junior bankers also will appreciate acting as a loan officer in the aptly titled Examiner for a Day. The simulation presents a typical case of a small business wanting to borrow money.

The player reads the loan applicant’s request and must decide if he is a good, adequate or poor risk. As the loan officer, the player determines the risk by answering questions based on the five C’s (character, capacity, condition, collateral and capital) — with expert opinions helping the process.

Ease of use: Visitors should have either a 166 Mhz or faster PC with the Windows 95 or later operating system or a Power Macintosh with system 8.1 or later. They also need either Netscape 4.73 or later or Explorer 5.0 or later, both requiring the Macromedia Flash 5.0 plug-in.

Don’t miss: The Life of a Dollar Bill, found under the Financial Services section, offers two areas worth checking.

First, a Fun Facts area provides knowledge nuggets such as that the average life span of a $5 bill is two years, and a note will tear after about 4,000 folds.

Second, a three-minute Cash Processing video (available in dial-up and broadband sizes) explains how financial institutions and the Federal Reserve Banks collect and count money while the Bureau of Printing and Engraving makes it.

Family activity: A voluminous Teacher’s Guide contains multiple, downloadable lesson plans for the entire clan to reinforce all concepts taught on the site, including multiple-choice quizzes and ideas for discussion groups.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Fed 101 makes the Federal Reserve System a much more coherent entity by providing a rich lesson, on the manipulation of U.S. currency, for the middle school and older audience.

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, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]om).

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