Good morning everyone,
Today’s featured site is an “oldie but a goodie!” A fellow teacher came by yesterday and asked if I’d ever seen a site that allows you to create your own animals by blending parts together. I immediately thought of two sites – BuildYourWildSelf.com (which I blogged about in January 2008) and the Switcheroo Zoo, which I thought I’d mentioned here, but apparently haven’t! So, here goes!
I know I’ve seen and heard about Switcheroo Zoo before but it’s definitely changed since I last visited. It began essentially as a single-purpose (though well-designed) activity in which you blended animals together to come up with crazy creature concoctions. It’s grown WAY beyond that now, with major revisions to the interface, tons of new features, and a focus on supporting activities that make the site even more valuable as a teaching and learning tool. Here’s a screenshot of just one section, the main attraction, the Switch Zoo:
As you can see, the interface is intuitive, allowing fast and easy customization of your creature. Students can name their creature and add a story, making the site into a language arts activity. Then, by pressing the camera icon, they are brought to a page where they can visualize their final creation and print in full color. Very cool!
The site goes far beyond this point-and-click activity, however, with an entire section devoted to Teaching and Learning – there are educational games, lesson plans, resources for animal reports, even pages with contributions from visitors. My favorite besides the main activity above is “Build an Online Habitat,” where students select their biome, type of animal, vegetation and precipitation to see how well they match up. The captions as you make changes are hilarious, and it gives you the opportunity to discuss how the various habitat components interact and support each other. Another excellent choice is “Where do I live?” – a quick, visual, fun way to review world geopgraphy as it pertains to animal habitats and range.
If your students are studying animal habitats (elementary) or genetics (middle school), this site could be a great asset!
Hope this helps!