ZooWhiz in an educational website for kids aged 5 to 15 (or older!) that combines practice in reading, math, word skills, punctuation and grammar with arcade style games and collecting animals for a virtual zoo. Parents can customize the grade levels for the language and math skills quizzes. Kids earn coins by completing the educational quizzes, and they can spend them on the arcade games and on animals for their collection.
Kids also learn about the animals in their collections - their habitats and what they eat, and whether they are endangered. There are some extinct and mythical animals too!
ZooWhiz offers free and premium memberships. The premium membership, which we reviewed, offers more rare and endangered animals to choose from, and more arcade games; and more detailed progress reports and the ability to customize the educational activities for your child's learning level. For all the details, visit the website and look through the Information for Kids and Information for Parents pages. Note that on the Information for Parents page, there is a tab with a little extra info for home educators.
When my tester, Kennady, signed up, the first thing she did was choose an avatar. She changed her avatar a few times because she thought most of them were so cute. From the main page, she could navigate to the different areas of ZooWhiz - Learn & Earn, Milestones, the Arcade, and the Biodome.
Learn & Earn is exactly that. That's where she works on educational activities and earns coins that can be spent at the arcade or in the Shop. We were able to customize the educational levels so that she started off at a higher grade level with reading and grammar activities, and a slightly simpler level with math activities, since she is weaker in that area. She could choose which subject area to work on, and to her credit, she usually chose to work on math because she knew she needed to. For the most part she genuinely enjoyed the learning activities, and didn't view them only as a means to an end. Occasionally she would misunderstand a question and have a moment of frustration, but overall these educational games were fun and rewarding in themselves. At the bottom of the screen is a progress report bar (the website refers to it as the Dock) that updates the progress and number of coins earned as you go.
The Milestones section is where the student or teacher can see the detailed progress reports (for Premium members. Free members have a general progress report.) that show which activities have been completed and where the right and wrong answers were. Kennady looked forward to earning the happy faces on her progress report, and frequently called me to come look at them.
In the Arcade, Kennady could spend the coins she'd earned on all kinds of games. The selection of games isn't very big at this point because the website is still under development. Kennady played some games but for the most part she planned to use her coins to buy animals rather than games. So she spent more time at the Biodome than at the Arcade. I couldn't complain about that! There are well over 100 animals available, and in the Shop they are sorted by the biome in which they live. The number of coins needed for each animal varies.
In the screenshot above, you can see how the selection of animals is displayed. When you click on one of the animal buttons, an information card pops out showing a larger picture of the animal and giving detailed information about it, including its scientific name, what it eats, its status (endangered or threatened, or if it is extinct or mythical), and other info. Kennady spent a lot of time looking at animal info and making her choices whenever she was ready to spend coins. I was often surprised at the animals she wanted for her collection. She has already chosen a number of domestic animals, and has some reptiles and mythical creatures as well as the animals I would have predicted that she would find "so CUTE!" <---- said in preteen girl squeal! Obviously she is learning about the animals during all this perusal of their data cards, although she hasn't decided to memorize the scientific names yet! LOL
What we liked best:
- everything was just plain fun! Kennady never complained about the Learn & Earn activities that I can recall. She enjoyed them and I liked that the math activities were reinforcing her skills and building her confidence.
- the ability to customize the level she worked at. Kennady is 11 years old and in sixth grade, so I started her at her age level in the reading skills, but at approximately a year or two younger in the math section. These skill levels are the "bottom" of the learning activities the child can access on the site. So she couldn't spend an hour doing simple beginning reading activities that are well below her grade level just to earn coins. She had to do things that were much more likely to challenge her. The parent can change these levels too, so if I'd guessed wrong and started her at a level that was much too easy or too difficult, I could adjust.
- the Arcade games are timed so even if she wanted to, she couldn't squander all her time playing. Even better, in Kennady's opinion, is that when the timer runs out, the game is saved so that next time she played, she could continue from where she left off! If you've ever heard the howls of protest and frustration when a kid is supposed to quit a video game or the game quits on them and they "couldn't save the game!" you'll know just how valuable it is to avoid this. Seriously.
- all the educational information about the animals.
- Kennady specifically said that she liked that the questions in the learning activities weren't repetitive. She didn't get the exact same question or type of question over and over. For example, there would be a question about place values, then one that was solving a word problem, then one about geometry, etc. The questions are not timed, which is also a positive for us. She could think about her answer without worrying about time running out.
What we weren't crazy about:
- Kennady would have liked to interact with her animal collection more, or be able to have them displayed in a zoo setting. The way the collections are displayed is sort of like collector cards, which she liked, but there were a couple times when she told me she wished she could "do stuff" with them. LOL
- the arcade game selection isn't very large at this point, and not all the games are appealing to her. She's looking forward to more being available soon.
What I need to mention:
- ZooWhiz is still in development so there are more features to come! It is currently in Early Release Stage 2 and although many of the Premium features are fully functional, there are still areas that are being developed and are scheduled to be released in the coming months. We are having a great time using the many features already available, and are excited about the new goodies they will be rolling out soon!
Would your homeschool like to encourage a young Zoologist? Here's what you need to know:
Explore the website at http://www.zoowhiz.com/ for all the details. There is a free membership available that offers a limited access to the educational features and animal collections, but is a great way to try it out and see how much fun it is! Upgrading to a Premium membership will give the student access to many more animals and features, and will give parents the ability to customize the learning levels and view detailed progress reports. The Premium membership is currently available at an Introductory Offer of just $14.95 a year, which is a 75% savings. Get all the info about What Premium Means for Parents (and for Kids) at the website!
Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews.
Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received a complimentary Premium membership in exchange for our honest opinions.