INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Mathematics, Problem Solving and Geography
KS 2
Apple Mac or Windows PC with CDROM drive (dual format CD)

Crystal Rainforest 2000
Published in 1999 by Sherston Software (www.sherston.com)
59.99 + VAT (single user)

Crystal Rainforest 2000

Crystal Rainforest 2000 is suitable for children aged 8 to 11 years, who need to have acquired basic mouse, key board and control skills, prior to using the program. Crystal Rainforest 2000 is a vastly updated version of the original popular and award-winning program.

The children take on the role of a heroic explorer searching for Professor Roberts who will help to save the Rainforests on Planet Oglo, which are being destroyed by The Cut and Run Gang. Making the children aware of the profound effects of the clearing of rainforests.

The program takes a cross-curricular approach to ICT and places particular emphasis on maths, problem solving and geographical skills. It also stimulates an interest in environmental issues. There are a wide variety of activities varying in interest level and necessity throughout this program. An emphasis is placed on the development of the computer programming language LOGO. The progression of this skill is excellent providing teachers with a useful tool to deliver the Control and Modelling strands of ICT.

The maths skills involved in the LOGO related activities include estimating of distance and angles plus the solving of some mathematical problems for example the purchasing of vital merchandise which aid in the quest. The children are given the opportunity to use and apply mathematics via exploration of a maze within a temple, navigating a boat through a river and mending a variety of structures and objects which at times utilise the skills of rotation, reflection and tessellation.

The support materials provided in the package are well presented, stimulating and colourful complementing the program in developing the children's geographical skills. The main skills addressed include investigating place, use of geographical vocabulary, interpreting maps and expanding locational knowledge.

The program promotes many skills in conjunction with well presented, animation using exciting graphics, realistic sound effects and a useful narration, helpful for weak readers, although a little monotonous at times.

It is advisable that the teacher allows the children to work in groups of 2 or 3 as the program does require much collaboration in order to solve the initial problem. Crystal Rainforest really stimulates discussion of ideas - even in the most reluctant of speakers thus providing opportunities for the teacher to assess speaking and listening skills along with maths, geography and of course ICT. It would however be useful for the provision of a record sheet to allow the children to record their movements, clues and findings to aid in them solving the problem and to provide evidence for teacher assessment.

Spending considerable time observing the children working on the program has resulted in the following findings; the children were able to access the program easily and enjoyed the challenges presented to them throughout. Despite the instructions being ambiguous at times the children were able to work out what was required of them, however on occasions the less experienced children had to call on the expertise of some of their more proficient peers or class teacher.

One of the drawbacks of Crystal Rainforest is the length of time that it takes to complete the program. The children do become hooked on it and need to be reminded to take regular breaks from the screen. An idea to over come this problem would be to create a record sheet that duplicates the set-up section of the program. The children could record where they finish and could be taught to access this point in the program via the set-up procedure, next time they are allocated a turn on the computer. This would also conserve space on the computer hard-drive.

This publication would support and build on other LOGO programs, providing an exciting alternative to some of the less motivating versions available to schools.

We have found Crystal Rainforest to be excellent value for money and a great asset in supporting the curriculum. In addition to the program providing the choice of two difficulty levels there is also an opportunity for the children to create their own crystal whilst writing their own program.

We strongly recommend this program for classroom use, across perhaps two year groups. We used it in Year 4 and Year 6 to great success and we would urge Year 3 to make use of the previous versions to provide a progressional building block for Crystal Rainforest 2000.

Lesley Jones and Helen Cragg
St. Margaret's (Anfield) Juniors, Liverpool