This highly visual program is based on the awe-inspiring documentary feature of the same name that aired this year on The Discovery Channel. Using animatronics and cutting edge computer technology, viewers watch dinosaurs that look and appear real, almost as if footage was actually captured of these endlessly fascinating creatures.
Besides viewing video clips from the documentary feature, children explore dinosaur facts and test and apply their knowledge in a series of activities. A timeline feature allows kids to go on "landscape journeys" through the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous eras. They collect specimens that they can later use to complete a Food Web activity. Kids emulate paleontologists by collecting pieces of bone from each era and then use these fossils in a dinosaur puzzle activity. They draw on their knowledge from their "journeys" in order to construct a dinosaur family tree, dragging and dropping creatures into the appropriate branches of evolution.
The database Fact File is extensive and well presented. It holds all of the information in the CD-ROM. Kids search this database by selecting different characteristics (for example, carnivore, walker, Crestaceous period, and biped) and then the program brings up a list of all possible specimens based on those criteria. Kids then can click on one of the creature’s names to explore and research/facts (such as social, diet, and physiology) and answer true/false questions.
Young dinosaur enthusiasts will enjoy the wide selection of dinosaur sounds, screensavers, wallpaper, icons, and cursors for their computer. They can assign, for example, a dinosaur bone as their computer cursor and a Tyrannosaurus battle-cry sound to various system functions.
While some facts are narrated, others require reading, which is our first clue that the suggested age group on the box (ages 6-up) is quite off. Other indications include the fact that the content is quite challenging for anyone but the serious dinosaur fan, and the disparaging remarks from the host of the program when children slip up. This final complaint is really quite unfortunate because it can discourage a child’s natural desire to explore and experiment. We conclude, therefore, that children under the age of 10 would do better watching the Walking with Dinosaurs video.
On the up side, the video clips are spectacular and the content is rich, though certainly on the academic side. Kids will need to do quite a bit of research in the program's well-done Fact File database in order to successfully complete activities.