One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is the field trips. I loved them as a kid and I love taking them with my Schnickelfritz. Think about it, is it more fun to read about a subject or go where you can touch the animal, see where the battle took place, watch an artisan make something new. Of course some things are beyond our means right now. I can't take Fritz to the rainforest or the desert--too far, too much money, perhaps too dangerous. Digital Frog has attempted to remedy this by making virtual field trips possible. I recently received a cd rom with their three trips: The Wetlands, The Rainforest, The Desert.
The highlight of each trip is a virtual tour through the biome. There areposts on each tour where the student may use the mouse to do a 360 degree view of the location. The accompanying text gives some basic information and also clues for specific plants and animals to look for. Certain words in the text may be highlighted and clicked on them will lead to new screen where more in-depth material will be shared. You may also click on the name of the object to look for and the picture will automatically adjust to find it (saving little ones from undue frustration). Speaking of younger students, I don't recommend just plopping them down in front of the computer and letting them point and click away. They will miss the depth of information available. I know this from experience--I let Fritz loose with the Wetlands field trip while I worked on the other side of the room. He confused it with one of our orienteering meets where you try to go to all the posts in as little time as possible. Fritz would arrive at a post, click to see where the hidden objects were, and click on the sign leading to the next post. The vocabulary of the text was above his second grade level so he didn't bother to read any of it (it is possible to use the computer's text to speech function but the stilted, automated voice is more annoying that helpful).
The field trip is really designed to whet the appetite for further study in the other sections of the program. Subtopics for the Rainforest included: Rainforest Study (plants, animals and their interdependancy), Rainforest Types (Temperate and Tropical and where they are located), Mechanisms of the Rainforest (soils and water cycles, etc.), and Our Endangered Rainforests. The material was presented with text and videos. There were "games" to test comprehension like building a tree with specific features to survive in the rainforest, looking for camouflaged creatures, and choosing which brightly colored fauna were safe to eat. Fritz enjoyed the last game best, when you chose an incorrect snack, the screen would say "Blech!"
The disc for each field trip contains PDF files for a teacher's guide and a student workbook if you'd like to make these studies more of a traditional education experience. They're a little tricky to get to because every time you left-click on the drive with the disk, it starts the program. You need to right-click on the drive and choose the "Explore" option. It would be best to use this series when you are studying the particular biome itself. I had hoped to isolate the birds and insects of each habitat to fit in with our current science study, but specific creatures are just hidden gems to be discovered along the path. When you do find them however, what a treat! I'll never forget the video of an orchid mantis in the section on camouflage. This critter looked just like the delicate light purple flowers it was hiding among--until that bee happened by. The field trip series takes a secular viewpoint, but I saw it as a wonderful example of God's creativity.
The package I received contained all three Field Trips available by Digital Frog and is available at their website for $199.00. Single trips are available for $84.00. Digital Frog also has cds on cell structure and a virtual frog disection (hence the name). Their pricing structure seems more geared toward schools and institutions rather than homeschooling families.
You can see what others on the Homeschool Crew thought of The Digital Field Trip Series by clicking here.