- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

The National Pest Management Association’s Pestworld for Kids (www.pest worldforkids.org) provides an animated take on the vermin and insects mankind loves to hate.

What could have been a lame marketing ploy to spook kids into getting their parents to renew their exterminator contract instead does a very good job of entertaining and educating visitors with a colorful multimedia package.

A cartoon rolls in the corner of the screen while the opening page loads. With a menacing musical accompaniment, it presents a look at some of nature’s helpful animals that quickly become pests when they enter a lawn or home. The segment asks children to gather knowledge and become experts to stop the creatures that want to invade their world.

A pair of primary sections deliver the mission statement quickly. First, Amazing Pests offers a short introduction and mug shots of 21 infamous troublemakers, ranging from ants to earwigs to opossums. Next, Threats and Prevention actually might scare some younger visitors. Its question-and-answer entries on rats and mice carrying hantavirus and mosquitoes transmitting West Nile virus was enough to frighten me, even after reading tips to keep the pests from spreading their disease.

The highlight of the site is the mixture of challenges found in Learning Games, a place that uses humor and more fun animation to educate.

For example, Archibald’s Adventures features an ant with a very stodgy British accent that asks visitors to help him gather food to feed his colony. It’s a great game for the pre-tween segment and involves moving an ant around indoor and outdoor environments while walking over food and avoiding hazards, including some lunatic wielding a magnifying glass.

Another game worth a look is the Pest Rangers, hosted by Pest Commander Pete, a fellow who falls out of a cereal box. (Wouldn’t he be an uninvited pest?) The superhero-type character needs help locating, identifying and getting rid of a variety of pesky home invaders.

During the action, a junior Pest Ranger controls an avatar that can move indoors and outdoors to isolate seven common pests. With the help of a scanner, he can use ultraviolet light or sound amplification to track clues and isolate causes of pest infestation, and then must seek out items to stop the invasion.

The game is a pretty detailed learning challenge that, for example, looks at the life cycle of an Indian meal moth and asks rangers to figure out how to keep it out of living areas. Pete offers only a small marketing plug for the association when he cautions that sometimes a professional must be called in to take care of a problem.

Sections rounding out the site are Send a Pest Card, a interactive to design and send an e-mail with either a features creature or fact (I really didn’t need to know that a cockroach can live for a week without its head).

For Teachers gives educators a bunch of resources to download exploring topics such as the ecology of termites and the native habitats of household pests.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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