Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Zoo Whiz!

With a 5 year old that loves playing games on the computer, and a mom who prefers those to be educational games, we were both excited to try the Premium Subscription of the Zoo Whiz program!

Zoo Whiz is an educational, yet fun environment for children 5-15 years old to practice skills that correlate with their curriculum.  From the website:

The bank of educational content in ZooWhiz contains over 17,000 carefully-crafted, finely-incremented learning activities, giving comprehensive coverage of maths, punctuation, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, word skills, phonics, phonemics and reading.

Basically, how the program works is your child has a student account that is linked to your parent account.  From your parent account you select an "age platform" for each main subject--Maths, Words, Reading.  Once you select an age, your child can only choose learning activities that start at that age range or higher.  This is something you can change later if needed, and since you can adjust each subject separately, it is easily customized to your child's unique abilities!

When your child signs into their account, they can choose a zoo keeper character and as they play, they can see their stats at the bottom of the screen on the Progress Bar.  Then there are different places on the map they go can for learning and fun!

Learn and Earn houses the educational activities.  The child chooses from the subjects of Math, Words and Reading, and is given a series of questions where they can earn coins that can be spent in other areas.  We found the questions in Iron Man's age range to be very age/skill appropriate for reviewing concepts.  We moved during the middle of the review period, so I was very thankful to have this program before and after the move.  It helped him review different topics without me having to plan, organize or dig through boxes for school supplies when things were slightly chaotic.  He was doing "school" without even realizing it!

I only wish that all of the sections had an audio option, because I like to work nearby doing dishes or prepping dinner when he plays on the computer.  Because this was not possible, I found I had to schedule this when I could sit with him and read the questions out loud to him, because he is not a fluent reader.

In the Biodome, children can  shop for their zoo animals.  There are a great variety of animals:  familiar, exotic, extinct and fun (unicorns and Sasquatch anyone?), with some being reserved for Premium subscribers.  There's nowhere to really "build" a zoo though.  When we first started, Iron Man asked about building a zoo--he was wanting to put his animals in their habitats and see a virtual zoo, but that's not an option.  He still likes buying new animals, but this section was not as interesting once he learned it was only a list.  However, you can also look at each animal individually and learn about their diet, habitat, and other interesting facts, so animal lovers will enjoy that feature!

The Milestones portion shows your child's progress through each age platform of each subject, so you can see how well they are progressing through the program, and what skills they are covering within each subject.  You can even see how many questions your child got correct/incorrect.  (If you sit with your younger students like I do, you probably won't need this feature as much, but it his helpful if they want to show dad when he gets home from work!)

The Arcade is the rewards section for Iron Man!  After he does a round or two, he's allowed to spend some of his coins in the Arcade playing games.  The games are labeled by age, so you might want to make sure your younger students are only choosing age/skill appropriate games, but the arcade is certainly a great incentive for doing the Learn and Earn section!

  • I wish all the sections had audio (or the option to turn audio on/off) so non-readers can feel independent when working 
  • The home page of Zoo Whiz says "Become a Keeper!  Build Your Own Zoo!" but you can only see your animals in list.  Being able to arrange the animals in a zoo setting would be a nice premium feature.
  • There are occasional advertisements, even on the Premium account, and I'd prefer that not be the case

What Do We Love?
  • Everything else!  The graphics and sound effects make it engaging for my son.  Iron Man loves that there are games associated with the learning, and I like that the student area is easy to navigate.  I love that it offers such a wide variety of questions in different subjects.  I don't mind subject-specific learning websites, but it's wonderful to have so many core-subjects contained on this ONE website!  This makes it a one-stop-shop basically.  It's a fantastic supplement!

Final Thoughts
This is not a "teaching" program, but it is an excellent way to supplement what your child is already learning. and I like that so many core subjects are contained in one website.  The program says it is suitable for up to age 15, and I'm sure the level of difficulty in the learning section is appropriate, but I'm not sure how interested teenagers would be in the program and "zoo" features.  You can use it as part of school if you're needing an off day from teaching (like I said, this program was a life saver during our move), or as an incentive to finish other tasks.  My son doesn't ask for many school-related things, but he does ask to play Zoo Whiz!  Since this is purely a supplemental program, I am not sure we will continue with a premium subscription  (especially since a young child's interests come and go) when our complimentary subscription ends, but I am very glad we were given the opportunity to try this program!  I think it's a great resource. 

The basic Zoo Whiz subscription is actually FREE!  This means you can try it out with no obligation.  However, the Premium subscription that I reviewed (currently on sale for ONLY $14.95/year!) offers unlimited learning access, more games, more animals, a more detailed progress analysis, and they will soon be offering achievement certificates and other great features.  Based on our experience with the Premium subscription, I can absolutely recommend the free account to see how much you and your children benefit from the program, and if you are in need of a strong supplemental program for various subjects, I would recommend considering the upgrade to the Premium subscription.

Be sure to check out other Crew Reviews to see what other homeschooling families think about Zoo Whiz!

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a one year premium subscription of Zoo Whiz in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed were not influenced in any way, and are based on our own experience with this program.

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