Showing posts with label Nature Study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nature Study. Show all posts

Friday, October 8, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Digital Frog Field Trip Series

One of the beauties of being a homeschooling family, is that we can head out to explore all sorts of neat places-which is often referred to as a "field trip".  I actually don't refer to it as such, because it is more than that-it is a life experience that we can tuck into our child's heart and mind.  I can tie in various lessons (science, history, culture, etc) with the experience, to really infuse into the children all that we have learned about that subject.  And it is very Charlotte Mason like (which is our backbone method of choice),  in thought and philosophy-having them experience it first hand (well lots of other methods are covered here too-I just wanted to highlight our choice of learning style) and so that is one of my goals in educating my children-to include these outings.

But being the realist that I am-I understand that visiting a lot places is simply not going to happen within the time frame of what our lessons are about...unless we are fortunate enough to go with daddy on one of his business trips, with places to explore, that just so happen to fit what we have been studying. So for example:  the desert is not a very tangible option right now (although when we first started homeschooling, we lived in Phoenix, so we were able to see some of it whilst we lived there) because we live in the north east part of the country-but what if we have been covering that climate, and I truly wanted to add an outing to tie the lessons all together? What options are available that are  interactive and provide more than a spew of info in a short amount of time.  Where could I go for that?

That question was quickly answered when I received the Digital Field Trip Series DVD to review.  Not only does this cover three different climates and an assortment of other scientific like processes/happenings (like photosynthesis, adaptations, botany, etc.) but it is actually interactive-like we are there but in virtual form, and we can experience it from our cozy home, any time we want.  Now sure, it isn't the "real" thing-but the real thing also costs money to get to, has obstacles and challenges that frankly, we may not always want to deal with. Such as hot, sweaty and cranky kids, or timing it so our visit is during the time/season the parks/places are open. Oh, and lest we forget- bugs! Those blood thirsty mosquitoes, biting gnats, and yes-fire ants which litter the desert landscape, and can administer very painful bites, indeed. 

And how about those critters I do not want to meet whilst traipsing through the great outdoors [snakes, bears, skunks or some crazed Howler Monkey, for example], during our exploration? Well they are virtual so "no harm, no foul" here! This is proving to be a great way to get those hard to do field studies into our schedule.

And like a great "Ginsu Knives" commercial-there is that "But wait!  There is more!!!"  to this than just a virtual 360 degree tour of the place. You can download both a teacher's and a student's workbook for all three of the field trips, to use as you explore the selected climate. As you walk through the well marked (by numbers) trails, you will be able to click on signs to gain details about what is around that point in the tour, or view diagrams, take a quiz, and more-all to gain further insight while on your outing of discovery.  To not over load you with the details of each tour-I put the direct link [above the picture of each climate] that will navigate you over to the page detailing what each field trip covers, but I couldn't resist giving a few personal comments on each for you...

We live in an area that one could consider the wetlands-well close enough to one that we could fact the kids have climbed through a plastic reconstruction of a beaver's home at our local nature center...but we did not get all this information on our quick tour.  No way Nellie-sure didn't.  On our virtual tour, we hunted for various critters, as if we were on a nature seek and find quest; and we even heard the local bird residents chatter and sing. And if we forget the details of what we just heard, we can revisit any time we want to take notes, play a game and well-not sink in the bog!  Besides-we didn't need a passport to go on this Canadian wonderland excursion!   

Visiting a rainforest is not really that easy for most of us. Now granted, we just returned from Hawaii, which  has 11 of the 13 climate zones found throughout the world.  So we actually were in one-but not "in" it long enough to glean much [you simply do not hike in flip flops when the paths are steep and you have no water], because I was not about to go exploring the unknown entanglement of plants and trees and creatures, just to provide some sort of educational opportunity for the kids.  So yes, we may be able to get near one-but to venture deep within it?  Not so sure...that is why this is a great option for anyone.  I was able to hear the birds sing, a fly buzz by, and even was tempted to lunch in at the Cafe o' Jungle (not sure what its name really was-but it was rustic!) And again-the info is right there, so if I forgot something I could simply click on the sign and re-learn it.  This was probably my favorite tour, but the boy was totally digging the bog.  Actually this series is like a smörgåsbord-it can suit just about everyone's tastes! 

After living in the desert area of Arizona, I can truthfully say-you really wouldn't want to explore this puppy on your own unless you had a guided tour, and lots and lots of water!  No need for Cody Lundin (co-survivalist on the show, Dual Survival) to get you from point A to B without the need for a search and rescue. Plus, finding all the creatures and plants, within a decent amount of time, is probably impossible. So again, this series takes you there and all without leaving your home! Going on tour of the several deserts in the Southwest US, we meandered all comfy-like in our jammies, soaking in the knowledge...and without needing to pick barely visible cactus needles out of our skin (which we did many a time while living there).  Re-visiting the Sonora Desert was like a step back into memoryland for some of us,  and a totally new experience for our youngest.  Too bad they didn't include a Pink Jeep Tour of the place-that would have really added some nail biting excitement to the visit.  

So there you have my side comments of all three of the Digital Field Trips.  We have only scratched the surface of these; as we did a quick tour for now, but plan on turning each into a mini-unit study down the road.  It was a delight to review this item! I cannot close without mentioning that the Digital Frog gals also have a couple other great virtual products-one being the Science Matrix: Cell Structure and Function (which I got when I renewed my TOS magazine a while back). My daughter used this as she worked through her Biology course-in fact, it helped her "get it" quickly, and she had fun learning it too!  They also have the Digital Frog 2.5 program, which involves virtual dissection of the amphibian (and without the stink/grossness of it all) right on your computer screen. So these gals certainly have created some very useful and Twenty-first Century ways to teach with a different approach!

You can try a free demo version by clicking here, or join the Frogger Club for worksheets, game cards, additional videos, and more.  

**For those readers who like to know the angle of the material:  these definitely are not coming from a Christian view point.  There is reference to "millions" or "thousands" of years in a few places.  I personally just insert a more realistic number and let it be.  I wasn't finding it to be too much of an issue.  As with most science oriented material we come across, we had to tweak it to fit our beliefs as Christians.  Frankly, there is so much good information in these, and the concept is a great way to get your field trips in without leaving home-that the good totally outweighed the glitches of a worldly view point for us.  But I did want to mention that so you knew before purchasing.

the younger children will need assistance

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Digital Frog Homepage
Field Trip Series info
For the Series DVD:  $125.00 (plus shipping) for a single home license. Different prices for co-op use or for purchasing individual virtual field trip DVDs. Pricing page

I figure most kids of any age will enjoy this-but I should think the upper elementary and Jr. high kids will find the material best suits their skill levels the best. Once could certainly have their high schooler or younger elementary students go through this too...ah geez-let's just give it a rating for all ages, as it can easily apply to just about everyone once tweaked to fit their skill level.

Don't forget to visit our TOS Crew Review Homepage to see what my crewmates had to say about this and many other fine homeschool products.

***Digital Frog International provided me with a free Field Trip Series DVD, to use and explore with my family; so that I could write this review.  No financial compensation was provided for my honest and field trip exploration opinion of this product.