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DragonflyTV

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  Afterschool Expert   Science Expert  

Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Judy Caplan

Dragonfly TV is a website http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/ that supports the PBS television program DragonflyTV. This site contains a set of science investigations, science fair ideas, games, and message boards designed for children 9 to 12 years old. There are over eighty Teacher’s Guides on the site. These are divided into six categories - "Body and Brain", "Earth and Space", "Living Things", "Matter and Motion" and "Technology and Invention". Each three page guide begins with a set of questions posed by young scientists. This is followed "Do It, Get To It" section that includes a related easy to do experiment. Further explorations, to be done at home or off site, are also included. The last page of the guide includes additional resources for the educator.
Full Review:
Dragonfly TV is a website http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/ that supports the PBS television program DragonflyTV. While the site makes it easy to find when the program may be playing in your area, it is not necessary to view the television show to take advantage of the interactive Website This site contains a set of science investigations, science fair ideas, games, and message boards where youth can share their thoughts and suggest investigations of their own that might be considered for future programming. Copies of the DragonflyTV Science Journal are available for downloading on the site.

The site lists as its first goal to "foster a greater interest in science and the process of scientific inquiry among children aged 9 to 12, with special emphasis on racial minorities, girls, and underserved communities". In addition to girls playing a major role in the series, there is information and links about SciGirl, a related program that is designed to encourage females to take part in science activities.

There are over eighty Teacher’s Guides on the site. These are divided into six categories - "Body and Brain", "Earth and Space", "Living Things", "Matter and Motion" and "Technology and Invention". Each three-page guide begins with a set of questions posed by young scientists. Programs that have computers linked to the Internet can view the Flash videos directly on the computer screen. Hopefully, programs would have multiple computers available since it would be hard for more than three or four students to view the video at one monitor. If programs plan to use the website, it is helpful if they have a high speed internet connection that is reliable, otherwise, viewing these engaging materials could be difficult.  

One of the pluses of this site is that all the Flash videos illustrate young people exploring a science question that interests them. All Flash video segments are archived, so instructors can easily identify and review any previously viewed segment for specific lessons or topics.  A set of questions are presented that can guide your group’s inquiry into the question. In a section titled "Do It, Get To It" a science experiment is described. The guides seem to assume that the leader will know, and have, the needed supplies for the activity. Afterschool staff will find this a problem. Since they have little, if any, time for preparation a supply list would be a plus! The "Take It Outside" section includes further investigations that can best be done outside of the program confines. Some require outdoor space while others ask students to record observations over long periods of time. A final page links the investigation to the appropriate National Science Education Standard.

There is a special section for parents and teachers http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/parentsteachers/, which includes the programs educational philosophy and tips for using the site. These links are not prominently displayed but it would be valuable for afterschool staff to spend some time, ideally as a group, looking at this information and discussing how they can support the philosophy behind this site while doing the experiments it lists.

The site encourages interactivity in a variety of ways. A section labeled "Do It" contains 56 experiments that could easily be completed in 30 to 45 minutes. Youth are invited to share their results and learn about the experiences other had doing the same experiment. Message boards exist for each of the six science categories, SciGirl, and GPS (Going Places in Science) where young people are asked to comment on science centers, aquariums, zoos and nature centers in their area. All the message boards appear to be moderated.

The website also includes direct links to other relevant material. A reminder that notifies users (or instructors) whenever a link leads the user off the PBS sponsored site is a useful feature for monitoring student engagement and Internet surfing.

Afterschool program staff will find DragonflyTV an interesting site. In addition to using the site as a planning and resource tool for science activities, it is a useful site to share with participants. Program staff will need to spend some time exploring the site before being able to make the most use of it. The site is free to anyone with a computer and Internet connection.