Celebrate the Earth with eco-friendly sites

If the celebrations of Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 25) have triggered your child's interest in "going green," here are some fun online ways to further that interest.

At the PBS Kids EekoWorld, www.EekoWorld.org, kids ages 6 through 9 can explore environmental issues by participating in two simulations. In one called EekoCreature, kids design their own animal and decide where it lives. Once you have created your own eekocreature by combining body parts from real-world creatures, you release it within EekoWorld. Environmental events will happen near your creature and if you participate in them, you earn points to unlock cool features to add to your creature. An event might be that windmills are placed nearby and you will be asked whether they should be there. If your answer supports the environment, you earn points.

The other simulation, called EekoHouse, places you in a typical home with 10 minutes to go through the house and yard to find ways to help the environment. Among other things, kids will learn to turn off the water while brushing their teeth, close the curtains on a hot day to keep the heat out, and that front-loading washing machines are more energy-efficient than top-loading machines.

Meet The Greens

At the Meet The Greens website (www.MeettheGreens.org), kids follow the lives of two cousins, Izz and Dex, as they learn about environmental issues. The WGBH-created website uses short animated Flash films, games, quizzes and blogs to teach kids about "going green." Presented in episodes, the content within the website makes environmental learning fun because it uses humor and clever dialogue. By creating situations that reflect what real kids are experiencing, children can identify with the issues that Izz and Dex explore. In the episode called "Fresh Air," when Izz suggests that she and Dex take a walk outside to get some fresh air, Dex balks by saying "Can't we just look at it on the Internet?" This is a site that many kids ages 7 through 14 will find amusing.


Even virtual worlds for kids are finding ways to communicate environmental issues. In Dizzywood (www.Dizzywood.com), a free virtual world for kids ages 8 through 12, when you plant a virtual tree to reforest a damaged area within the online world of Dizzywood, a real tree is planted on Earth. Working in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, Dizzywood lets kids make a real-world impact by participating in this virtual activity.

Kids who join this virtual world create their own avatar and find things to do by joining in ongoing stories. In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, Dizzywood introduced an event in which villain Emperor Withering has destroyed a large tract of Dizzywood's forest. All children entering Dizzywood are encouraged to plant tree seedlings to help restore the wrecked forest. By playing a minigame, kids earn a seed to plant. And when they plant it in Dizzywood, kids see the effect on Dizzywood's polluted sky as it slowly begins to clear.

"This is a wonderful activity to teach children about how planting trees and rehabilitating a forest can clean the air by reducing air pollution, providing habitat for wildlife, helping prevent soil erosion and cleaning our water," says Kevin Sander, director of corporate partnerships of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Empowering kids with the ability to make a real impact such as this reforestation project, instills a love and appreciation of nature, which is invaluable."

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine (www.ComputingWithKids.com). Contact her at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.