Thursday, October 4, 2012

CREW Review- Zoo Whiz



We recently had the opportunity to review ZooWhiz!  ZooWhiz is a "curriculum based, motivational learning" web site for kids ages 5 to 15 plus that allows kids to practice math, reading skills, punctuation and grammar.

From the website:
You’ll love learning with ZooWhiz
  • The people who built the ZooWhiz activities already had lots of experience teaching kids so the educational activities are just right for you
  • You can choose the level of the content you work on. This means that ZooWhiz need never be too easy or too hard for you.
  • To stop you getting bored there’s lots of different types of activities, not just the one type
  • As soon as you give your answer you’ll know how you have done and each time you get an activity right you’ll earn coins and add to your Educational Score
  • We’ve built lots of jokes and puns into the activities just to keep you having fun

When you first enter the site this is what you see- a map of the zoo. 

From this screen you have several choices you can make of places to visit.

Learn and Earn-  This is where the learning takes place!  Your child can decide to practice reading, words, or math.   By answering the questions correctly they earn coins.  Once they complete 10 challenges they can move on to another subject or continue that same activity. 

Some examples of questions we experienced at the lower level-
Matching- shadows, objects and patterns
words- uppercase, lowercase
Which one if different?
Follow the sound trail-sound recognition
same different
Examples of upper levels -
multiplication and division
order of operations
reading comprehension

The Biodome-  Once your child has earned enough coins, you receive 100 every time you log in, they can head to one of two places- the Biodome or the Arcade.  The Biodome is where they will find a zoo shop and their own zoo.  They can purchase animals with their coins to add to their zoo collection, or they can look at and learn about the animals they already have.

The Arcade- The arcade is simply that!  A fun place to play games, while spending the coins you have earned.  Run out of coins?  Off to the Learn and Earn tab you go to get more.  This was our 10 years old's favorite place, of course!  Some games involved some learning, some are simply fun.

Milestones-  This is where you can see just how your child is doing.  A pretty simple layout, but with the premium account it goes into pretty good depth. 

What did we like about this program-
-It has great reinforcement!  With their cool Australian accents they say things like, "very cool", "fantastic" and my boys, favorite, "cracker jack"!  Sure beats mom's  "good'!
-There is wonderful information on each of the animals.  Now some are fictitious, but they do tell you that up front.  Regardless, they tell you about habitat, food, where they live and so forth.  A younger child could do a mini report on each of the animals he bought if you use unit studies and want to incorporate science!
-The arcade time is limited to 3 minutes!  LOVE THIS!  (sorry, boys!)  Yes, they can play until they run out of coins I suppose, but the limited game time is a huge plus in our family.  I like that the program rewarded the kids work, but did not allow them to solely focus on the game aspect for unlimited time.  While we monitor our children's computer time, let's be honest, sometimes we move away, get distracted and then realize our child has played the same game for an hour.  (or is that just me?)
-You as the parent can set the age settings for your child and change them when you need to from your parent account.  This is referred to as the age floor, and allows you to restrict your children from areas that may be too simple for them.

What we would like to see changed-
-For younger children, it would be nice if all the questions were read to the child.  CJ, our 5 year old, only reads simple words right now.  So for him to do the math or words activities I had to sit and read each question to him.  The reading section is read out loud for the younger ages. There are times when it would be nice if he could do this program independently, because he really liked it.  There are plenty of times he would have explored the animal facts on his own if they had been able to be read to him.
-Would love to see you not have to push the next button after each question answered.  Lazy, maybe, but for a 5 year old it is just one extra step he does not need.
-We found the levels a bit random.  There were times levels read 4-6 yrs. and the later 5-7.
-Both boys asked where their "zoo" was.  The 5 year old KEPT asking!  They really would have loved it if there was an actual zoo that you could maneuver your animals in, making it more interactive!  Just having the pictures did not engage them much.

So would we recommend this site?  Yes!  While I would not call ZooWhiz a full teaching curriculum, it does cover a lot of material and is a fantastic place for kids to review and reinforce what they are currently learning.  Because this program in still in its early stages, and they ask for input from parents,  I foresee great things ahead.  I have no doubt it will continue to grow and be a well rounded educational program.

You can register for your free keeper and get started right away with limited animals to buy and basic reporting information.  You can also upgrade to a premium membership  for $29.99 a year which will open lots more animals and games for your child for as well as more detailed reports of your child's work.  They are continuing to upgrade this program and even certificates will be available to print with the premium membership soon. 

UPDATE on Pricing- As of today, 10/8- Premium membership is now $19.95 and I hear will be  $14.95 soon!  Keep your eye out for this change- it is a GREAT deal!

Disclaimer- My family received a premium membership for a year in exchange for our honest review of this product.  All opinions are our own and were not influenced by the company in any way.

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