What it is: National Geographic Kids is a constant source of excellent activities but their new Animal Jam virtual world is above and beyond my favorite. My students love virtual worlds, they enjoy being immersed in a story, sent on a mission, and interacting with each other to complete adventures and learn. Animal Jam lets them do all of these things while providing a virtual world where they can discover real-world plant and animal information and follow a rich storyline that has National Geographic’s multi-media content built in. Cool huh?! Animal Jam does something else, it excites students to learn more about the real world around them, so when they aren’t playing in the virtual world, they will be excited to learn more about the world they live in. The virtual world is an easy one for students to pick up on and learn, it is perfect for young students and caters to their specific levels of play and developmental stages. Animal Jams will be one of those environments that is as appealing to fourth grade students as it is to first grade students. The online environment is safe and monitored so you can feel comfortable introducing it in your classroom. Each portion of the sign up process is narrated so it is easy for even young students to sign up. The site requires a parent’s email address to sign up, the email is required but does not have to be verified before play can begin. In a classroom setting, a teacher or classroom email address could be used for sign-up. The email address allows an adult to monitor and adjust settings in a child’s game.
How to integrate National Geographic Kids Animal Jam into the classroom: After students sign up, they are entered into the magical world of Jamma where they are introduced to the world. Each portion of the game is narrated making it accessible to early readers, struggling readers, and English language learners. As students explore the world of Jamma, they will find embedded learning about different kinds of plants and animals along with incredible National Geographic images. Animal Jam is a nice environment to let your young students practice what they are learning about online safety and netiquette. As students explore Jamma, they will learn about links, navigation with mouse and arrow keys, and learn fun facts in the process.
Every primary curriculum that I have seen carves out time for students to learn about plants and animals. Animal Jam is a fun place for them to discover this learning within the virtual world. Send your students on expeditions and adventures to find these learning opportunities. As they play in Animal Jam, students can keep an observation journal where they record the plants and animals they are discovering like a scientist would. Ask your students how many of the plants and animals they can find in real life around their homes. If you are learning about ecosystems and environments, ask students to count and name the different ecosystems they can spot in Animal Jam. This site is ideal for the computer lab setting, make sure to at least begin the game in the computer lab where each student has a computer. After the kids are signed up and familiar with the world, it could become a center activity for your classroom computers throughout the year.
Tips: Right now Animal Jam is in Beta. The world is free to join and play in but premium accounts are also available to students.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Animal Jam in your classroom.