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"Hi, my name is Carol and I'm a teacher at Jefferson Middle School. We're studying aquatic macroinvertebrates and I'm wondering if you have any materials to help me and my students learn more about these critters?"
Her question couldn't have been more timely. I had just finished updating EEK! Environmental Education for Kids, the DNR website for children, and we had just added a "Water Critter Key" to the web pages. This key, along with a practice worksheet, helps kids "key out" or identify critters they're likely to find in Wisconsin waters. After practicing online, they're ready to head out to local waterways and try their skills in the field. When they're ready to write reports, they can head back to EEK! to find out more about the critters they found, their habits and habitats.
The aquatic critter key is only one of the many items kids can find on EEK! Want to know more about composting with worms or air pollution? Need information on wildlife or endangered species in Wisconsin? Want to hear Wisconsin frog calls? Or are you just looking for some fun online? EEK! has all these things and more.
Designed as an online resource for students and teachers, EEK! provides information on environmental topics and natural resources. It's a place to learn more about careers with the Department of Natural Resources, make seasonal observations about nature, and share nature stories and artwork with other site visitors. Teachers can find information and activities on the "Teacher Pages."
Children and their parents often visit the site from home, as a recent e-mail to EEK! illustrates: "My mom loves this site – we are home schooled and she gets great ideas of things for us to do. Thanks."
Whether you're looking for homework help, activity ideas, or just want to learn more about the environment, come give EEK! a try. In the words of an enthusiastic young site visitor listening to the call of the spring peeper: "This is way cool."
Carrie Morgan edits EEK!
Air on disc
Click. Computer-animated oxygen atoms bounce into view and carom wildly off the sides of the computer screen. "Welcome to the Stratospheric Ozone Game," responds a computerized voice. "You are entering a world where you directly affect ozone depletion by the actions you take."
The game is one activity on the interactive "Where's the Air?" CD-ROM, the DNR's first multimedia education product.
Students 10 and up can boot up and learn about air chemistry, then explore how people affect air quality by the choices they make. Each game on the CD requires reading about a problem and making some decisions. After each choice, the user is catapulted to a 'consequences' screen, which shows the result of each decision.
Teachers frequently comment that the CD's "choice-consequence" approach based on situations students face every day makes the experience realistic – and memorable.
Animated characters help the student explore different types of transportation and compare effects on the ozone layer and smog (ground-level ozone). Students learn about health issues related to each air quality problem, such as cataracts and skin cancer caused by loss of stratospheric ozone.
The website EEK! is regularly updated with air education activities so students and teachers can continue to learn the latest in air science.
The CD is part of a kit that contains a poster, teacher's activity guide, and other resources. Free kits were sent to every public school, private school and public library in Wisconsin, to members of the Wisconsin Partners for Clean Air (a group of businesses and organizations committed to voluntary air cleanup), and to teachers who attended "Where's the Air?" workshops.
The DNR has been awarded a second U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to create a new CD-ROM kit, "Easy Breathers," for high school students.
"Easy Breathers" will teach the science and engineering of how car and truck engines work, and the biology and chemistry of how engine emissions affect air quality. The kit will use interactive games, activities and links to the Internet. Students will investigate how air pollution damages healthy ecosystems and people, and explore alternative fuels and technologies. Students from John Marshall High School in Milwaukee are collaborating with the DNR to produce a video as part of the kit. The CD, poster, study guide, and other kit components will be released in spring 2001. To order a kit, contact Mittsy Voiles, Easy Breathers, CE/6, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mittsy Voiles is an air and waste communication and education specialist with the DNR.