Recently I was shown the website TropicMind.com, an educational and interactive online experience for children ages 6-12. Over the last week or so I’ve had an opportunity to explore, and watch my oldest son explore, this website, and am very excited about what it has to offer.
Kids can hop in their speedboat and cruise from island to island, seeing what adventures each location holds. Upon arrival at each island kids have choices between different cartoons or games they might want to play. While it might look fun, don’t let the talking parrot and giraffe fool you: this website is packed with educational information.
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Things I Like About Tropic Mind
Incentivized Learning – Just about everything kids do on the islands (watching the videos, winning games, etc.) earn them “tropic coins” which give them the ability to purchase virtual items. They can beef up their own “personal” island with these items, such a putting in furniture, decorations, and even taking care of virtual pets. By providing kids with these incentives, they are compelled to keep exploring the islands and learning.
Creative setting and characters – Making each educational module its own little “island” is a very creative way to engage kids with the educational content. The entire experience feels more like a game than doing lessons, which will make a lot of kids very happy.
Safe social network – Kids have the ability to interact with other “boaters” who are accessing the different islands. Naturally, parents should be cautious about their kids connecting with total strangers online, but it is comforting to know that the entire community is being monitored for inappropriate content or suspicious activity. I would have very little hesitation allowing my kids on Tropic Mind because I know it was designed with safety in mind.
A growing catalogue of new islands and games – The makers of Tropic Mind are adding more learning experiences all the time. The island format will allow them to build endlessly on it.
Subjects Taught in Tropic Mind
Currently there are a number of short teaching modules and games. All the lessons are taught by a cast of quirky animated animals.
Math games include creative exercises for kids to practice symbols of inequality, place values, addition facts, multiplication facts, how to use a ruler, recognizing basic geometric shapes.
Anatomy lessons include teachings about basic body parts, the circulation system, respiratory system, skeletal system, and the digestive system.
Earth and space science lessons include teachings on basic astronomy, continents and oceans, ecosystems, how to use a compass, and several lessons in environmental studies such as recycling and air pollution.
Physical science lessons include teachings on the different states of matter, sound waves, energy, and electricity.
History lessons walk kids from prehistoric times, through ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and finally modern times.
Some Things That Need Improvement
No directory for parents and teachers – Tropic Mind could really use a directory of the specific lessons taught, the objectives behind those lessons, and the corresponding games. Right now there is nothing on the site like this that I can see. This might be a nice addition for homeschooling parents or for teachers who want to select specific activities in Tropic Mind to reinforce their own classroom lessons.
History lessons contain over-generalizations - Not all history lessons were like this, but I found myself questioning why specific aspects of historical time periods were highlighted and other aspects neglected. Ancient Rome was a great empire filled with gladiators and aqueducts (why not mention any of the Caesars and their conquests?). The middle ages was a time filled with church corruption and witch burnings (why not mention the black death or the Vikings or the Muslim conquests?). The most noteworthy things that happened in the last 100 years were space flight, movies, computers, pollution, and the extinction of species (why not mention any world wars or the Depression?).
Overall the history lessons were very informative. I get that they are making lessons deliberately short, but in the future it would be nice to see more lessons about these time periods that offer more well-rounded pictures of life in ages past.
Outdated food pyramid is promoted – Personally, I don’t believe the food pyramid was ever a good idea. The carb-heavy standard American diet has very little basis in actual dietary studies. Not to mention even the USDA has given up on the pyramid. This island needs an overhaul.
The evolution of man is taught – Of course I want my children to be taught about evolution, but I would prefer for my kids to be offered a more critical look at this topic and how it interacts with our faith. Obviously, a site like TropicMind.com isn’t going to offer that sort of approach.
Overall, I believe this site will only improve with time as more users help to shape the needs of the Tropic Mind community.
Well-Worth the Cost
You can get the free version of this to see how your kids like it, but the paid membership is well-worth what you pay for it. For $50, you get a 12-month membership, and with that access to all the islands and learning experiences, more tropic coins, more virtual items, and access to more of the social network.
This video gives a great taste of what Tropic Mind is like: