- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

Harnessing the power of electricity has led to many modern-day comforts that often are taken for granted. The dangers associated with the energy source should never be taken for granted, however, especially by parents with children.

Teaching electrical safety has become a bit easier thanks to a site developed as an educational outreach program for utility companies. It is loaded with revelations for a younger crowd looking to avoid shocking electrons traveling at the speed of light.

Electrical Safety World

Site address: www.culverco.com/resources/esw/index.html

Creator: Culver Co., based in Salisbury, Mass., is a 30-year-old family-owned business. The company works with utilities across the country to develop safety programs for the utilities’ customers.

Creator quotable: “We created this site by combining information from safety experts at electric utility companies with engaging activities and a kid- and teacher-tested design. Our aim is to make it more likely that kids will learn and adopt the behaviors that will keep them safe around electricity,” says Brennan Culver, president of Culver Co.

Word from the Webwise: Visitors learn some “re-volt-ing” developments about the source used to power their computers through a site full of colorful pages, simple links to easy-to-understand text, and a couple of games that clearly explain electricity.

Blinking buttons located on the side of every page lead to pages of text information highlighted with pop-up definition boxes and occasionally peppered with illustrations and photographs to reinforce lessons.

Of the 14 buttons available, a trio of them should be at the top of the list for children learning how to stay safe around electricity.

First, In Case of Emergency covers electrical fires, electrical shock, downed power lines, power outages and even what to do if a power line touches someone’s car while the person is in it.

Next, How Electricity Can Hurt offers a pointed look at a current’s travels, why humans make great conductors of electricity, how birds can hang out on power lines and never get hurt, and a background on electric shock.

Third, Find the Hidden Dangers presents a game that allows a player to investigate the slightly animated neighborhoods of Sophia, Alex and Tyler. Visitors try to get the highest score by clicking on electrical hazards in each child’s neighborhood. When a danger is identified, a multiple-choice bonus question pops up. Eleven hazards can be found throughout the three environments and are reinforced with pop-up questions.

Other buttons include areas on inventors who harnessed electricity, the scientific principles behind electricity and a checklist on safely planting trees. Parents and educators also can print out a safety certificate to reward children who successfully work through all the areas.

Don’t miss: The game Shock Blocker provides a clever permutation to the classic tick-tack-toe challenge. A player must use X’s to block an electrical current, denoted by lighting strikes, from completing a circuit as it looks to place three icons in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Unsuccessfully blocking the current leads to its zapping one of the virtual onlookers.

Family activity: One of the most important away-from-the-computer tasks a family can perform is found under the Home Safety Audit button. Children print out an 11-point checklist that covers such areas as overloaded outlets, transporting appliances and using extension cords. Additionally, the site offers a teachers guide containing four science experiments about electrical circuits, conductors and insulators.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Developed for children in third to eighth grades, Electrical Safety World immediately delivers an impact through an excellent variety of information. The site even works as a reminder for older visitors in the mood for an easy-to-digest safety education.

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]).

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