A new on-line tool that our family recently had the opportunity to try out and now review is Orphs of the Woodlands created and sold through Star Toaster. I am looking forward to sharing more with you about this resource that is part reading adventure and part fun game that will enthrall your child that likes to build on-line kingdoms.
A Little About Orphs of the Woodlands
Orphs of the Woodlands is offered through a 60 day subscription. This subscription is for a parent account with three sub-accounts for students. The core base of the product is a reading adventure using a fantasy genre with small woodland creatures as the main characters. It is designed for students in the upper elementary and lower middle school levels. The book is broken into 16 chapters with projects and jobs at the end of each chapter. The projects and jobs are the interface that links this reading adventure to the fun game format that accompanies it. The student has the option to complete different jobs (lessons) within different learning areas that help them to earn gold stars. This is the currency of Ivywaithe where the story takes place. These gold stars are then used by the student to purchase land, build orphanages to house orphans of the kingdom as well as build necessary things on the land to care for the orphans. In addition to this being a wonderful reading adventure, it could easily be seen as a wonderful critical thinking supplement for your child, because of the decision making tasks that the student encounters. For example, in having rescued 8 orphans who are now living at my son’s orphanage, he is faced with the decision of how to care for those orphans. These little ones need food, clothing, warmth, medicine, and defenses built around the cottage to protect them. Students must make critical decisions of spreading their gold stars between short term smaller purchases or building larger projects. An example is in buying a small amount of food, water, and medicine or using a larger amount of stars to build a well for a greater ability to provide water over the long haul. The jobs that the students complete at the end of each chapter fall into different learning categories:
- Thinking Skills
- Life Skills
- The Arts
Our family set up a user account for each of our sons as well as a test student account for myself. In exploring this tool personally, it is exciting to watch the number of orphs (short for orphans) rescued increase while also challenging you in finding ways to provide for their needs. As you continue through the chapters, the ability to purchase adjoining land to build additional cottages just keeps increasing the excitement. It is much like building kingdoms and worlds in other on-line games, but incorporates the reading adventure along with learning centers to make this a wonderful educational supplement.
Some Additional Thoughts from our Experience
The combination of the adventure fantasy based storyline combined with the building of the student’s own imaginary world makes this a supplemental resource of appeal for the student. Being able to complete the jobs, build projects, and expand their own world is a driving force for the students to complete the reading adventure. Within the text of the story, the student is exposed to lots of new vocabulary. These words are highlighted and in scrolling over them, a pop-up box appears. This pop up box contains the all the same information that the student may find in a dictionary entry along with synonyms for the word. There are other times that a blackboard icon appears after a word which contains additional information about the highlighted word. Some of the blackboards we encountered contained recipes, science topics, and art lessons. Like many great literary works, it can take some time for the student to really get into the story. This was the hurdle we had with our son. He really wanted to get to the part where he could start building and playing. The chapters are approximately 25-20 screen pages in length. For a fifth grader, this felt a bit daunting to him. The developers of the tool do have a count down at the bottom of each screen letting the student know how many more pages need to be read to get to the end of the chapter and the fun. I think if there was a way to get their feet wet in exploring Ivywaithe before starting the first chapter, it would make getting engrossed in the story a much easier hurdle to cross from the beginning. To help encourage our son in giving the Orphs of the Woodlands an honest try we read the first chapter together and then I set him free on the jobs at the end. This helped tremendously. I did see our son talking and asking about the things he was learning along the way. He was disappointed that he could not just print out the recipe for the nutbread, but was motivated enough to copy it. I was impressed that the ingredients were all whole foods based and would be things naturally found in a world similar to Ivywaithe. On a different day he began talking about tessellations. This was something completely new to me and he was more than enthusiastic to share. We journeyed over to google to learn more and even found some tesselation worksheets to print out and color before attempting our own. For those that are curious – tesselations are a technique used in art where you repeat the same figure or shape without leaving any empty space on the paper or overlapping objects. It is quite cool and challenging. There is so much in the Orphs of the Woodlands that I am not sure we have done it justice in this review. For this reason, I would encourage you to take Star Toaster up on their offer of a free trial. Additionally, click on the graphic below to see what other families from the Review Crew have to say after exploring Ivywaithe themselves through this on-line reading adventure.