Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Crew Review: ZooWhiz

Sugar Maple L-O-V-E-S animals. She would have a zoo if I'd let her! She's currently "pleading her case" to have 2 pot-bellied pigs or maybe rabbits. (Nah, not going to happen! ::wink::) So, I instantly thought of her for our newest crew review - ZooWhiz.

ZooWhiz is an on-line "curriculum-based motivational learning" website for kiddos ages 5-15+. The program covers math, reading, spelling, vocabulary, phonics, word skills, punctuation, and grammar in "over 17000 educational activities". Each core subject is broken down into 10 progress levels. In this program, students become zoologists and can earn coins to buy animals and create a zoo by playing educational games. There is a free play version as well as a premium paid version. 

Our Experience
I began our review by choosing the level of play for Sugar Maple through the Parent Gateway link. She's 10 and in 5th grade, but she's a little "all over the place" right now with her skills. So, I set Math at Age 9-10 and Reading/Words 11+. These "age floors" (or lowest level of learning) I adjusted after a couple of weeks. Words included a lot of spelling and spelling is her subject nemesis, thus I lowered her "age floor" to begin at age 8. (Kids can not chose their level of play BTW.)

And then Sugar Maple chose an avatar. Having just the right avatar to represent her was very important. ::wink:: She (of course) chose the little girl with the blond pig-tails from the image below. I'm a little surprised that she didn't chose the girl with the pink hair though. ::laugh::

During our school mornings, she would have computer time and play ZooWhiz. At first she only did the Math games. I was able to check her progress in different Math areas by clicking on "Milestones" through HER account. It was very interesting to see the areas where she excelled (i.e. Addition/Subtraction, Decimals/Fractions and ALGEBRA) and struggled (i.e. Data and Geometry). But she needed encouragement to try the other areas - Reading and Words - because she explained, "Those games take forever to load!" Although I didn't find this to be my experience when I played around in Reading and Words. (I think she just didn't want to do those parts! ::wink::)

Here's an example of a "Milestones" report from the website. Someday I'll figure out how to do screen shoots! ::wink:: Clicking on the ? tells you what each face icon means, but it's easy to figure them out. A very quick way for both parents/teachers and students to check their progress!

She collected coins by playing educational games like a pro - Kids seem to figure out computer programs as quick as a wink, don't they? ::laugh:: - and began "purchasing" animals for her zoo...Cassowary, Black Rhino, Tapir, Wombat. Each animal has information links to read that include things like classification, habitat and diet. Love this! Not only could Sugar Maple work on her Math and Language Arts, but she could learn some Zoology and Science too! Games had a drag-and-drop, click, missing answer, or multiple choice approach with visual and auditory correction.

The "dock" at the bottom of her playing screen kept her updated with her progress, and included her coin amounts, number of animals and learning levels.

Now ZooWhiz is a "work on progress". There are several areas in development and coming soon. But the "nuts and bolts" are there! A Premium yearly subscription is $14.95. (Head over to the ZooWhiz for current prices and information.) Isn't that a steal?!

I found ZooWhiz to be an excellent resource to review learned topics and catch some "holes" in learning to we could explore outside of this program. I wouldn't use this program as main curricula for Math, Language Arts or Science, but it's definitely a challenging enough program to be included in our daily school schedule. 

And Sugar Maple loved building her virtual zoo and learning about animals (and getting in some Language Arts and Math in the process)! She's excited to continue using ZooWhiz!

Disclaimer: Our Side of the Mountain received a single student one year subscription to ZooWhiz in exchange for our honest review of our experience using the product. All thoughts and opinions are our own. For more information visit ZooWhiz here or to see more TOS reviews here.

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