For some reason Digital Frog makes me think of dissecting frogs. (Might have something to do with the fact that they came out with virtual frog dissecting software some years ago, which — considering the squeamish stomachs at our house — I put on my list for our high school years.) Yes, they do sell software that teaches frog anatomy, without the need to sacrifice the life of a frog at home on the kitchen table. But they do much more!
The people at Digital Frog are teachers, and they create natural science software. In addition to frog dissection, you can learn about the structure of the cell, and… (here’s where the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew comes in).
Virtual field trips!
You may well have taken virtual field trips already. The Internet offers opportunities to visit historical sites, for example. The Digital Frog company has put together three field trips to the wetlands, the rainforest, and the desert.
“You are there”
The graphics are vivid. You feel as if you’re standing in the middle of a path, with the ability to look up, down, and all around. You can zoom in on the organisms (plant and animal) at your feet. There’s a guide who’s come along on the trip, with ready information on specific features surrounding you, as well as general instruction about ecosystems.
Wide range of ages
The information ranges from simple explanations to very complex. (For example, the explanation of photosynthesis can be understood by elementary-aged students, but when you get into the details, you’re hearing about complex chemical interactions worthy of high school study.)
Our girls enjoyed exploring the habitats (desert, rainforest, and wetlands). The program is intuitive, and includes tutorials to help you get the most out of the experience. If you get stuck, help is just a click away. Navigation is simple. Not only can you easily move through the program in sequence, but you can also jump to any screen at any time using the program map.
If you don’t have a desert nearby (a desert would be a long drive for us, for sure), this is the perfect way to explore a desert ecosystem. (The same goes for the other field trips.) The simulations are built around real places.
More features than I can describe here
Each of the virtual field trips is loaded with features. For example, if you load the desert exploration, you have the option of a quick geography lesson on where deserts are found in the world. As you go deeper in the lesson, you can find pictures of deserts around the world (including some that might surprise you, like the “wet desert” in Antarctica and the northern polar regions).
Just some of the features we’ve explored so far:
– geography lessons
– the field trips themselves
– hyperlinked text, giving you definitions, explanations, and pronunciations
– lessons that fit well with any study of earth science or biology
– graphic and animated explanations of cycles and biosystems
– educational games to help make the learning more interactive
There is an evolutionary undergirding of the material, expressed in subtle ways. For example, in the quiz on land formations, “water erosion” is the answer to several questions (or as Answers in Genesis puts it, “a little bit of water over a long, long time”), where the Creation Science we’ve learned would call the same kind of water erosion “a large amount of water over a short time” (as in a worldwide Flood event). There’s mention of adaptation and evolution in various topics. However, we use this sort of thing as a springboard to discussing the various theories of how things came to be as they are.
Teacher helps and student workbooks
Each field trip includes PDF files: a teacher’s guide and student workbook among these. The teacher’s guide has information on installing the program and using the features, as well as learning suggestions, resources, and learning objectives for grades K-3 and 4-12.
The student workbooks are designed to help the students interact with the material, including questions to ponder and discuss, problems to solve, charts to fill in, and more.
You can use these virtual field trips to learn about various ecosystems. The ideal would be to explore all the topics before making a real visit to a desert, or rainforest, or wetlands area. However, there’s a lot of learning here, even if it’s not convenient to make a real-life visit.
You can purchase these field trips from The Digital Frog at this link. Any individual field trip (Desert, Wetland, Rainforest) is $60 for a home license or $84 for a single educational license (suitable for a co-op class), or a CD set or DVD with all three field trips is $125 for private home use or $199.00 for a single educational license. A home license is for private home use only, and includes all the features found in the full educational version.
Visit The Digital Frog website for free downloadable demos and teacher helps.
Read more Crew opinions here.
These Digital Field Trips run under Windows or Macs. System requirements:
- Windows 2000, XP, Windows 7 or Vista (32 bit) (some features may not work in the 64 bit version of Vista)
- 32 MB of RAM (64 or more recommended)
- 75 MB of hard drive space for QuickTime
- Mac OSX 10.3.9 or later
- 30 MB of available RAM
Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew received a DVD-Rom from the Digital Frog for review purposes only. Opinions expressed here are our own. No monetary compensation was involved.