12th January 2001 at 00:00
ATHENIAN LIFE. pound;39.50 (single user) pound;79 (network). 4Mation, 14 Castle Park Road, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 8PA Tel: 01271 325353

With ever increasing demands on time, it's a pleasure to find a quality product that combines two subject areas in a way that enhances both. 4Mation's Athenian Life is an interactive history simulation game that can be used as a resource for the Qualification and Curriculum Authority's history unit14, Who were the Ancient Greeks?, and fulfils the requirements of ICT unit 3D, Exploring Simulations.

Based on the Greek story of the Iliad, Athenian Life transports children into the world of 3,000 years ago. From the theatre trip, the main characters, Jack and Karla, are transported to the Agora, where they begin their Greek experience by being sold as slaves. Pupils must help them please the Goddess Athene by finding a jewelled diadem to return them to the 21st century.

The game comprises a linked series of fully narrated screens, with full-colour, hand-drawn illustrations. As well as the main narrative, the screens feature many "hot spots", with detailed information about items, buildings and circumstances from slavery to citizenship, which reinforce much of the key historical vocabulary used in teaching about the Ancient Greeks.

Athenian Life adds a new dimension to the history of Ancient Greece. t covers essential issues such as Athens, Sparta, civilisation and the relationship between slaves and their masters. It also features art and architecture, visual arts, theatre, and legends of Greek gods, heroes and heroines. Children experience Greek customs, food and dress, with opportunities to work collaboratively to decide the next move, and learn plenty of facts along the way.

The software is extremely easy to use - children can save their position in the game between visits, allowing groups of children to return to the adventure over an extended period. The CD-Rom also includes a series of printable worksheets based on aspects of Greek life featured in the simulation. The adventure is slow-paced, but educationally sound, consolidating historical facts in a motivating way.

Hi-tech it is not, but it is worthwhile in the way it gently introduces and extends relevant vocabulary and information. It is based soundly on a child's perspective, and encourages exploration, empathy with historical characters and the use of evidence to formulate ideas.

Athenian Life is ideally suited to lower key stage 2 children, but could be used to inspire older children to make their own text-based multimedia presentations based on historical periods and events.

Gillian Blatherwick is ICT co-ordinator at Rushey Mead primary school in Leicester

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