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Leaders in Science and Nature Education Reach Out to Children 
By Michaele Birney Arneson
May 1, 2003

National Geographic Planet Frog
National Geographic, long a bastion of science education, and other educational institutions are leading a charge into the broader toy market by raising brand awareness through a variety of games, toys, and activities.

National Geographic

Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organization. With a commitment to "the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge," they now market a number of science and nature-based learning activities for kids.

Beginning explorers can learn about exotic animals and far away places with National Geographic's flashcard sets, Animals of Our World and Famous Places and Worldly Wonders ($3.99, for ages 6 and up). Each card contains a full-color picture of the subject along with a set of interesting facts.

For slightly older adventurers, National Geographic's Flower and Leaf Pressing Kit ($8.99, for ages 7and up) contains a wood press, construction paper, stencils, pencils and a nature journal. Planet Frog ($24.95, for ages 8 and up) contains an enclosed habitat simulating a frog's environment, tadpole food, and a mail-in certificate for the actual tadpoles.

GeoBee Challenge Game
An increasingly popular National Geographic tradition is the annual Washington D.C.-based GeoBee competition, where many of the brightest students in the U.S. gather to test their knowledge about the world. Now, some of those same questions are included in its GeoBee Challenge Game ($19.95, for ages 8 and up), with skill levels ranging from novice to expert so all members of the family can participate.

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846, is the world's largest museum complex with 16 museums and the National Zoo. An important center for research, the Smithsonian is committed to public education, national service, and scholarship in the arts, sciences and history. As such, it makes sense that they also have a number of products designed to educate children about science.

Smart Labs Chemistry
For beginning science enthusiasts, the Smithsonian's boxed Science Starters ($6.29, for ages 6 and up) provide a good introduction. The series includes Crystal Growing Geodes, Five Power Telescope, Astronomy Lab, Dinosaurs (two different sets) and Magnet Lab.

For more experienced science seekers, another series, Smart Labs ($10.49, for ages 8 and up), provides more challenges. This series includes Bioscope, Crystal Growing, Rock and Gem Dig, Crystal Radio, Chemistry, and Volcano.

Animal Planet

Animal Planet Sea Life Bucket Collection
A relative newcomer on the science and education block, the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet is reaching past the airwaves to bring wildlife discovery to children.

Like the Smithsonian, much of the Animal Planet line is produced in series format. Its line of Bucket Collections ($10.99, for ages 3 and up), consists of groupings of bugs, sea life, reptiles, dinosaurs, safari, forest and barnyard animals, all in a wide-mouthed, plastic bucket. A similar, but smaller version of these collections is the To Go Collections ($7.99, for ages 3 and up), which include animal assortments that fit neatly in a clear plastic backpack for the smallest of adventurers.

For children especially interested in dinosaurs, the Animal Planet line offers the Dino-Model Kit ($19.99, for ages 6 and up), a three-dimensional wood puzzle kit that resembles a reconstructed dinosaur skeleton.

Writer's Bio:
Michaele Birney Arneson is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in children’s topics, education and employment, health science, and environmental issues.


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