Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Write addict on Children's museum of Indianapolis***

So, is this official addiction, this wanting to write something even when I am not supposed to, especially because I am not supposed to? It is, in its own way, intoxicating, this life of the mind: this reaching within for words, for ideas; this celebrating the power of thought; this glorying in the incredibly awesomeness of thinking. Humble wonder and dizzying sense of mastery unitedly gaze at this prerogative, this privilege of the creation of thought.

So, to counteract, I found this in an article by Mark Ravenhill at the Guardian yesterday - "A personally defined landscape can easily become an enclosed and introverted prison, referring only to itself." One line to remember, to take from another mind. One line, perhaps out of context, surely meaning something else when it was written down, but one line to put my meaning to, here, and flag.

The Children's museum of Indianapolis is apparently the world's largest children's museum, spread over 19 acres of land, receiving more than a million visitors each year. The figures I, however, would be more interested in are the number of visitors to their website! They list fourteen awards, including one from American Library Association. I am not entirely sure that it is all that great a design, but judge for yourself. If you are a teacher, or parent to a home schooling kid, museums in general are a great resource, so this would be handy on that score. They apparently do have study units and other resources for teachers, and conduct workshops at the museum for home schooling kids, for which you can register. I, on the other hand, have so far been solely concerned with the total experience of a site, which includes content as well as layout and ease of usage, so I was not overly thrilled by the very functional look. Once you overcome that first prejudice, the kids section of the menu will lead you to games according to age - preK to grade 2, grades 3-5 and grades 6-8.

The games open in new windows, which may or may not be full sized. Some of them are allied to the exhibits at the museum - in fact the window will also have information about show timings and other such tidbits. Others are plain games. A few are common i.e. they have three levels corresponding to the three age groups previously defined, while others are unique for that group.

Among the games for the younger children, I was enticed by the label of trains of past, present and future. However, the name was deceptive, and the game involved placing passengers and cargo in the correct train compartment and such. It has three levels involving visuals versus increasing use of reading, but adult help may still be required, if only to maintain some interest. An interesting game for children nevertheless.

Build your robot is exactly what the name says, and is enjoyable and funky. You can print out the robot image when you are finished.

Dinosphere is one of the games allied to their exhibits, and has three levels, not all of which may be incompatible with your young child's understanding. Explore and see. The dinosaur related ABCs were disappointing for some very mundane and stretching a point entries. Other activities were more fun. The older children get a better deal with thought provoking discussions about whether fossils are or ought to be private property etc.

Fireworks of glass allows you to place some virtual glass bobbles on a wire framework - a simple and fun task well within a preschooler's range, even at the third level. There are also level based informational modules to do with glass sculpting, which were too dry for my kid though.

Haunted house is the section most enjoyable in October, because the games are simple colouring, puzzles and catching treats by using the keyboard.

Jolly days winter wonderland has suggestions for kids to play offline during winter - nothing great. The puppet game has great potential, and I thought it would be fun to talk about puppets of the world, but it invariably messes up on my browser. The first level starts off with giving different puppets personalities - good for helping children identify emotions and their expressions. The next section logically ought to have something to do with using or mobilizing these puppets, but it doesn't. Instead you have to match some puppet photos with the kind of puppets they are - invariably this is where we get a blank so I don't know more :) And there is no back button, so if you have to go back and choose another level, you can't.

I am not going to cover the other two age ranges - you can get a good enough idea by the above. Do check out the mummy related animation in the grade 3-5 section though, even for a younger child -

All in all, a very variegated selection of games - understandable as it is not a game site per se. Useful for integration in teaching however. The url -

P.S. If you haven't yet read the article quoted above, do. It is an interesting thing, more so because it gives the sense of being slightly incomplete, of being - dare I say it - more of a blog entry than an essay. And the comments are even more interesting, showing the myriad ways his words have been interpreted. Each has seen something just slightly different from the other, enough to cause arguments and discussions if all these people were in the same place, same time.


Anonymous said...

Hi, This was a very informative and interesting post. I enjoyed reading every bit of it. Thanks for sharing !

Swati said...

Thanks Shilpa :)