- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 18, 2004

Understanding the proper way to care for one’s mouth, especially the teeth, can be a challenge, especially for youngsters.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research understands this and has spent more than 50 years explaining the importance of oral hygiene.

One of its outreach programs gives elementary school teachers fantastic lesson plans to engage their students on the science of the oral environment and major concepts relating to its health.

Over the past year, the organization has extended its reach to the Internet with a module supporting the lesson plans and promoting active learning.

Open Wide and Trek Inside

Site address: science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih2/oral-health/default.htm

Creator: The online curriculum was developed as a partnership between two National Institutes of Health organizational units, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and the Office of Science Education, both in Bethesda.

Creator quotable: “We created this curriculum supplement to help young students understand major concepts related to oral health — e.g. that tooth decay is a bacterial disease — and how their behavior — brushing, flossing, limiting snacks, etc. — can enhance their oral health. We also wanted students to understand something about the nature of scientific inquiry and its ability to help us answer important questions about human health,” says Bruce Fuchs, director of the Office of Scientific Education.

Word from the Webwise: Educators will have the most fun roaming through the site’s Teacher’s Guide section and culling information from the six components of the lesson plans:

• What Do Mouths Do?

• Open Wide! What’s Inside?

• Let’s Investigate Tooth Decay

• What Lives Inside Your Mouth?

• What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy?

• What Have You Learned About the Mouth?

However, the teaching plan’s primary beneficiaries, first- and second-graders, are not ignored and have a chance to enjoy themselves by joining the extraterrestrial Exee from the planet Y as he stops by Earth and finds answers to most of the areas above.

Found under Student Activities, Exee first appears during a two-minute cartoon explaining his mission, which then melds into a clickable screen area mirroring most of the six parts of the teacher’s lesson plans.

Each can be enjoyed in either English or Spanish and features a short animated segment, occasional activities and a closed-caption option to read the narration.

For example, What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy? uses only a cartoon to explain the importance of brushing one’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day to ward off acid attacks from pesky bacteria.

Open Wide! What’s Inside? offers three places to learn how to identify types of teeth. Computer users can choose from an animated segment, a matching game with numerous colorful illustrations of children showing the purposes of the mouth, and a nine-part cartoon on how teeth grow.

Ease of use: The site has been designed to work with IBM-compatible computers running Microsoft Windows 95 or higher with a minimum of 64 MB RAM and Apple computers running Apple Mac OS 8.6 or higher with a minimum of 64 MB RAM.

The user also will need a 56 kbps modem or high-speed Internet connection and either Netscape Communicator version 4 or better or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 or better.

The Internet browser plug-ins that are required for optimal viewing include QuickTime 4 or better and Macromedia Flash 5 or better.

Don’t miss: Visitors looking for science facts about the mouth should sneak over the lesson plans to find knowledge nuggets along the sides of pages. For example, about three-fourths of the flavor people experience from food actually comes from smell.

Family activity: Every lesson plan features an away-from-the-computer activity that ranges from using an apple as a model for tooth decay to proper tooth-brushing techniques to a printable mouth-shaped journal to keep track of primary tooth developments.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: If children take as much care of their teeth and gums as NIDCR took with developing this free, detailed content, they will never lose those pearly whites. Open Wide and Trek Inside works as a teaching incentive for home-school families, proactive parents and educators and is a great information resource.

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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