Magic School Bus in Concert/Lands on Mars Activity Value Pack
© 2000 Microsoft Corp.
Win, Mac OS (CD-ROM)
Teaches: Music, science, solar system, pitch, instruments, sound waves
These two Magic School Bus programs are a bit of a departure from the others in the series. "Why can't you go for a ride on the bus?" is the first question kids asked when they played with Magic School Bus in Concert. It's a good question. Unlike previous Magic School B...
These two Magic School Bus programs are a bit of a departure from the others in the series. "Why can't you go for a ride on the bus?" is the first question kids asked when they played with Magic School Bus in Concert. It's a good question. Unlike previous Magic School Bus titles, there is no mission or overall goal, and there is no connection between the activities. Instead, children explore two screens filled with items that lead to games or that launch short lessons on sounds and music. The activities are generally solid, and vary in their depth, fun, and educational value. One of the best is Central Stage, where children can hear and learn about instruments in the orchestra, as well as view their sound waves. Also innovative is the Acoustimatic, a machine that lets children place sounds into different environments (like underwater) to see how the sounds change. Great features include a closed caption option that makes the program usable by hearing impaired children. Also nice is that four of the activities have different challenge levels that the kids can set on their own. Despite its shortcomings, this program succeeds in its goal of giving children a playful environment to learn about sounds. We've got mixed feelings about the Mars CD. On one hand, the experiments are interesting. For instance, children find out about the effects of air pressure as they see what happens to different foods in Mars' atmosphere. They also build rovers with varying power sources to learn the benefits of each. There is plenty of information delivered, but in a shotgun approach— facts are just thrown out for kids to absorb as they will. The arcade games are fun for a little while, but fail to hold interest over time. One, for example, has kids steering a rover around the Mars terrain, collecting rocks. (Yawn!) To sum things up, the mission component found in the other Magic School Bus programs was sorely missed. These give kids a reason to stick with the software— a goal to strive for.