And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Fun Learning Website for Gamers and Readers

My kids both enjoy reading and are becoming gamers, so I knew they would have fun with The Treasure of HighTower from Star Toaster. This educational gaming site promotes learning through online books and games. This is the first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series and is an online curriculum we have been reviewing for the Schoolhouse Crew. This educational adventure is recommended for students in grades 4th-7th. This is a completely online resource that worked great for us on Chrome.

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First, the student fills out a spy application to begin their adventure. Then, they read a chapter of the book. At the end of each chapter is a list of jobs for them to perform. These jobs earn them goldstars which help them save the orphs (orphan Woodland creatures).

The story itself is intriguing and contains loads of vocabulary words. Select words are typed in color so the reader can hover over them to read the definition. Other color coded words give secret information or quotes. Some even have a sound effect! This spy story has so much packed into the 376 pages that I cannot possibly give you every detail.

Let's move on to the jobs. This is where even more learning happens! At the end of each of the 15 chapters, the reader is given a list of jobs to do. They can do as many or as few as they'd like before they continue reading. Each job gives them the opportunity to earn goldstars. The jobs are in the categories: the arts, math, thinking skills, vocabulary, life skills, character, language, and science. Each job has a short lesson (by video, reading, examples, and/ or a recipe) and then some questions. If your child answers all of the questions correctly, they will receive goldstars. Jobs that are not completed will stay available.

Then your child has a chance to save some orphs. They use the goldstars to purchase plots of land and then water, energy, medicine, etc. The more land and supplies they purchase, the more orphs they save. There is a topbar that shows the number of orphs saved, available goldstars, and the number of jobs available. This helps the student keep track of their progress through the game.

Apple has played this game for a few weeks and has completed it. She loves to read and enjoys online games so this was a win-win for her. She is a quick reader so it didn't take her long to complete. She enjoyed the "spy" theme of the game and the jobs that were available. She commented on many of them that corresponded with her current school lessons and those that included fun things like recipes.

I have an account set up for Speedy, but he has not really gotten started yet. He has read a few pages of it so far but he reads at a slower pace than his sister and so I need to break the chapters down a bit for him. This is recommended above his grade level but his reading level is on par to enjoy the story. He has been interested in the game and has watched Apple play a few times. I didn't want to stress him out with a time constraint so it will be easier for him to enjoy the game now that she has finished.

There are so many things we like about Orphs of the Woodland. It is learning by reading. It contains many topics and subjects for a well rounded educational experience. The 60 day subscription is perfect for a summer program that is fun. The game aspect is a terrific motivator. It is useful no matter what type of school your child is in. I can also see this online book working during times it is hard to homeschool or times when your child is bucking the idea of school. Online curriculum can be a wonderful tool during busy/ crazy times. I love that it is extra schoolwork without my kids complaining about it.

We noticed a few things that would enhance the experience with this game. The first thing is if a student misses a question or more on a job, they don't receive any stars for that job and they are unable to retake it. This was frustrating for Apple. She wanted to finish buying all the plots of land at the end but was unable to do so because of a lack of goldstars. Also the chapters are very long. For a more cautious reader like Speedy 20-30 page chapters (even short pages) can be intimidating. I plan to giving him a daily goal as he reads through the book. I think the games will keep him excited. Plus he loves spy stories! Navigating the site does take some patience in the very beginning. There is a drop down menu, buttons in various places, etc. It isn't terribly hard to figure out, but I would recommend parents take some time to familiarize themselves and then show students where they need to go for the important things. Also students and parents log in using the same email address but different passwords. That actually makes logging in easier, but it is important to make sure students are logged in correctly so that their work is saved under their account.

Apple's Orph plots of land.

So to recap....Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series begins with the first book The Treasure of HighTower. This program comes in a 60 day subscription (1 month extensions are available) and is recommended for 4th- 7th graders. The program includes a 15 chapter book and educational jobs where students earn goldstars to save the Orphs. Exciting. Fun. Educational.

For a limited time you can sign up for a free trial:

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Find out more by reading what other members of the Crew thought of this program.

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