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By SUZANNE DROSS
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 1999
You can help your children expand their horizons by spending time exploring the Internet. I'm sure your child's teacher is encouraging students to read this summer. What better way to motivate them than by getting on the Web and finding just the right site.
The Internet provides virtually unlimited resources to entertain and enrich the lives of everyone in your family. If the Internet is new to you, spend time surfing the Web to learn about the range of information available at your fingertips.
Web Teacher (webteacher.org) provides excellent tutorials for learning how to navigate the Web and get the most out of your browser. Surfing is fun, but to see the value of the Internet, your children need a specific purpose for going to a Web site. Pose a question to your child, and then let him or her use a search tool such as Yahooligans (www.yahooligans.com), or Ask Jeeves for Kids (www.ajkids.com) to find the answer. Sites accessed through either of these search engines have been approved for children. No matter what your child's interests, he is sure to gain valuable knowledge on the Internet. Here are a few Web sites that I have found containing a high quality and wide variety of information:
* It's never too early to learn about economics. Check out www.kidsbank.com.
* Think like an inventor at mustang.coled.umn.edu/inventing/inventing.html.
* Try your hand at being president of the United States at www.pbs.org/weta/whitehouse/whhome.htm.
* Weekly Reader (www.weeklyreader.com) provides online activities and the latest news arranged by grade levels.
* The National Wildlife Organization (www.nwf.org) site has links to popular children's magazines, Ranger Rick and Your Own Backyard. Lots of great activities will be found here.
* Have you ever been on a safari? Cybersurfari (www.cybersurfari.org) sends kids hunting answers to questions asked on the site. It is a great way to sharpen those critical thinking skills that are so important for children.
* I wonder if there is a single child not looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars movie? Get ready by visiting the Official Star Wars site (www.starwars.com).
* It might take all afternoon to explore the U.S. Department of Agriculture site (www.usda.gov/news/usdakids/index.html). It is certainly good for a rainy day.
* One of the most well-organized Web sites I have seen is the Virtual Blackboard (www.virtualblackboard.com). It provides opportunities for virtual learning and shows the direction of online education. Don't miss this one! Click on Web Tours to begin a learning adventure.
* National Geographic's site (www.nationalgeographic.com/education/) offers a variety of information. Click on the Student Assembly and enter the virtual world at Xpedition Hall.
* Create your own puzzles at www.puzzlemaker.com.
* Connecting Students (www.connectingstudents.com) provides links to a variety of educational material. Click on the interactive button.
* Planning a trip to a national park? Get the information you will need for a great trip at www.nps.gov.
* Are you planning a family vacation? Let your children help by researching the destination and planning what to see and do. Use the children's search engines mentioned above to guide you to appropriate sites. Need a map for your trip? At www.mapblast.com, a map can be created suggesting a route and giving the mileage. Perhaps your child could map out each day of the trip.
* Try out these sites guaranteed to hold children's interest for hours: www.bonus.com; www.tcfg.com; and billybear4kids.com.
Spending time on the Web with your child -- learning, exploring and reaching beyond the walls of your home -- is a good way for parents to become involved in their children's education.
-- Suzanne Dross is the instructional technology coordinator at Azalea Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
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