Ms. Frizzle and the gang always manage to breathe life and energy into science learning. This activity center software title features activities, experiments, and quick facts all revolving around whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Though it doesnt offer the adventure storyline format that helps make the show so popular, it does manage to entertain as it educates.
After a fun introduction, children sign in, design a "crew pass," and then meet with Ms. Frizzle inside the school bus. Here, plenty of clickables with multiple responses are available to provide information tidbits, with others leading to the programs games. Children can assemble "cetacean rotation" puzzles and learn a few facts about the animals theyve put together. A one- or two-player game of Spout Off plays like a quiz-style game show. Questions include deciding whether a whale or fish (or both!) has fins and choosing, in multiple-choice fashion, which of three items an orca would most like to munch on.
Both experiment-style activities are excellent. A clever measurement activity truly gives children perspective regarding the weight and length of various sea creatures. Many kids wont quite catch the significance of a statement that a blue whale is x feet long, but show them that a blue whale is as long as five school buses or a whole class of students, and weighs as much as 30,000 cats, and theyll understand! The Whale-a-Teria activity is really quite fun. This cafeterias guests are orcas, belugas, minkes, and the like, and they let kids know exactly which foods they prefer to eat, and which ones turn their stomachs! An animated blue whale, for example, will comically pull away and cover his mouth when a crab is in front of him but will gobble up krill hungrily. Cute!
After electing to exit the bus, players can then explore the ocean. They can click individual creatures, and the little videos that ensue are actually quite mesmerizingchildren can watch a humpback whales acrobatics, for example. Two fun arcade-style games can be accessed outside as well. Children help a beluga navigate an icy maze to return it to its pod, avoiding nets and enemies along the way in a game that is a nice little exercise in strategy. Spot That Whale is a simple but engaging game. Children need to snap pictures of creatures such as the beluga, bottle-nosed dolphin, sperm whale, narwhal, and more as the creatures emerge from the water before their roll of film runs out. Playing this game long enough will help children quickly distinguish between the various sea animals, though we wished these were named more frequently for extra educational punch.
The information tidbits are rather interesting, and many are not merely superficial spouts. For example, clicking the pull-down poster inside the bus prompts a short lesson about the differences between whales and fish. While not all children will absorb all the facts, those with some interest in the subject will discover much to learn in this program.
There are currently four activity centerstyle Magic School Bus titles, and this one has been the most popular with our testers. Though each activity center in the series is similarly designed, the puzzles and activities in Whales and Dolphins were considered the most engaging. Which of the available titles to choose will probably depend on individual interest levels in the featured subject matter, but this title was definitely better received and shows the strongest replay potential of the bunch.