My friend Deb Manchester has created just such a thing in a children's television show called The Zula Patrol. You and your children can watch it on Sunday mornings at 8 on WOSU and on Saturday mornings at 10:30 on NBC. Deb created The Zula Patrol while living here in Columbus and has gone on to create school and after school curriculum linked to the two seasons of programming.
The show is that perfect combination of entertainment and learning, and Deb has research showing young children (ages 3-grade 3) are learning when they watch. On top of all that, it's a blast for parents too. The characters are engaging and funny!
COSI partnered with Zula to create programs and museum exhibits, but we're also partnering with their newest adventure, ZulaWorld.com (www.ZulaWorld.com), an amazing virtual environment that's a perfect blend of adventure and learning.
Inside ZulaWorld.com your child can create her own avatar, fly her own spaceship, and make intriguing discoveries about how things work as she explores the cosmos. It's a perfect partnership for COSI because "fun" is the operative word on this site. Your child can team up with his friends, parents and even his teachers to problem solve, play games, and immerse himself in a community that includes travel to other planets.
The creative, technical and educational team that developed the website (including IBM) has designed all the games to engage kids, while also promoting critical thinking skills; something we know is vital for a child's future success in school and life.
The developers have recognized the importance of social interaction versus solitary play and have designed the site to offer a high degree of team play for kids, parents and educators. Even more important for parents, ZulaWorld.com has been built around proven concepts of protecting children in online environments.
So what kinds of things will your child find on the site? Just some of the fun includes: Zulapolis, where kids can play Larvi's Trash Game and learn about recycling and caring for the environment; Greater Crater Planetary Park, where kids can rebuild the park's playground equipment and learn about core mechanical principles, plus create skateboards for the characters to ride to discover Newton's Laws; Ice Station Zula, for experimenting with temperatures and different states of matter by trying to beat the sun in a downhill sledding race (shows how heat affects melting snow); and the ever popular Mole Game, where kids can catch moles as they fall from the sky, learning about gravity, mass and other core concepts.
But this is just the beginning of the fun. Basic levels of game-play are available for free for visitors to the site, but in order to really get the full experience, a subscription to ZulaWorld.com for $5.99 for one month; $29.99 for six months; and $49.99 for one year is a bargain.
Even better, COSI will be rolling out the opportunity to have part of your subscription price come back to COSI to help support our programs. We also have created a program that makes this opportunity to bring money back to the museum available to museums across the country.
Now you can do something great for your child and something great for COSI, too. It doesn't get any sweeter than that! Watch the COSI website (www.cosi.org) for more information about how you can subscribe and donate at the same time. In the next few weeks we will be posting a URL that you can click on to subscribe to ZulaWorld.com for your child and have some of your subscription fee help support the work we are doing at COSI.
In the meantime, go to the site and play ZulaWorld with your child. As an early childhood educator and a professor in the field, I am pretty picky about what we offer to young children. But I promise you that you will not be disappointed. I bet you never thought you would get to go to space but now you can!