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Kids Culture - The Great Explorers

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Pierian Springs Software is perhaps best known for their multimedia creation program Digital Chisel. Their Kids Culture — The Great Explorers is created in the style of a student multimedia project, with hand drawn illustrations and easy to read textual information. However, if you’re looking for information on European Explorers such as Columbus or Cortes, you’ll be surprised to find that many of the conventional explorers commonly taught are missing. The Great Explorers d'esn’t just focus on those who discovered new worlds; instead, men and women who have explored our environment through their lived culture or who have explored the potential of human discovery are highlighted.

There are six exploration themes highlighted in the program. Ferdinand Magellan focuses on Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe. Apollo 11: First Humans on the Moon tells the story of man’s first exploration of space. Amelia Earhart is a biography of this famous pilot’s life and flights. Islamic Traders Explore Africa discusses the movement of Muslim traditions into Africa through trade. Australian Aboriginals: Exploring the Inner World gives a sense of how the beliefs of the native Australians helped them to explain the world they inhabited. Finally, Across the Bering Bridge follows early man on his migration from Siberia to Alaska across the Bering Bridge.

Each theme contains several short essays that give background information. For example, the theme Apollo 11 Moon Landing is divided into the sections Helmet, Astronauts, Soviet Space Program, The Rocket, Launching the Apollo Mission, Mission Control and Luner Landing (yes, there are a few misspellings in the program). While exploring each section, students can read text and listen to music related to the theme. Bright ideas are also included for each theme, which give students ideas for extension activities away from the computer.

When using this program with students, the most popular aspect is by far the construction projects. Students can print and construct a variety of models related to each section. In the Apollo 11 theme, students can construct a model of the Lunar Lander or Mission control in Houston, to mention a few. By printing all the projects in a theme, your class will have a model that helps them explore the theme.

Young students will find this program easy to navigate as each button uses large icons that are explained by Terry the Tern, an animated helper who introduces each theme and can also read aloud any text.

While the program would be interesting for use as a supplement within a unit, it may not have enough substance to merit its use as a main resource. Several of the themes are simplified to the point of being "dumbed down" and do not give enough facts. Animations and primary source documents such as photos or maps are also sorely lacking. Perhaps most disconcerting are the misspellings and ill-constructed sentences throughout the program. All in all The Great Explorers is a good supplement for its construction projects, but there are other programs that may be a better source of information.

Michelle Bourgeois
Technology Coordinator
Little Flower School
Pensacola, Florida
mbourgio@bellsouth.net
Contact Information
Pierian Springs Software
Portland, OR
(800) 472-8578
www.pierian.com

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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