Chris Davis gives a thumbs-up to a program on animals.
DAVID BELLAMY'S ENDANGERED WILDLIFE CD-Rom for Windows Multimedia PC. Pounds 19.95 (inc VAT) from software dealers Global Software Publications Tel: 01480 496575. Age range: 8-13.
If you care about the world's wild animals and would like your children to share your concerns, this CD-Rom is excellent. The still photographs are magnificent and the numerous video clips, while not up to television standard, are perfectly acceptable and add a lot to the package.
The program is divided into two sections - the Discovery Tour and the Discovery Game. In the tour, some 50 animals are located on a world map, sorted by continent. There is a photograph and a fascinating factfile for each animal and many have video clips or soundtracks.
On first sight, this section alone may seem to be all you need, and, from a reference point of view, it probably is.
However, the real value comes in the game section, which begins with a message from the future explaining that many of the world's animals have become extinct. Here the child is actively involved in a well-designed learning process.
The game offers "all easy", "progressive", "variable" or "all-challenging" puzzles and games, through which you can "save" your chosen species. Each child is presented, initially, with a black-and-white montage picture of nearly 30 endangered animals. On selecting one, a series of puzzles are set, all centred around a crossword-like screen called the "Interlink".
Solving them involves the presentation of a lot of facts about the animal concerned. Once all the puzzles are solved, the animal is coloured on the montage and the child is encouraged to save another. The game can be left at any time, with the child's current position recorded automatically for future retrieval. It is even possible to be working on several different animals at the same time.
My eight-year-old, Katie, said: "The best thing is that you can have fun and learn at the same time." Her sister, 12-year-old Sophie, said: "It's good because it teaches you about the animals and encourages you to get involved in saving them."
All in all, this is an excellent program, very professionally produced, extremely motivational and with enough content to enthrall most children and many adults for a very long time.