My Planet: Helping Kids Build Global Awareness through a Field Trip on the World Wide Web
Since the Internet became available in the early 90's, children from around the world are able to read about other places, events, and people of interest to them. They can access stories and news and imagery from other countries; learn about other people and their cultures; and travel to far away places around the world-simply by using computers with browsers. For many children, especially from poor families and developing countries (who are not able to travel), this provides a huge window into the world beyond their own families, the people on their own streets and villages, and their restraint to own countries. At the same time, for many children from developed countries and higher economic status, there is an opportunity to expand knowledge and understanding of the poor and the disadvantaged. The key question is: How can this new opportunity become utilized in a meaningful way from the point of view of children?
Back in 1996, the Founders of MaMaMedia.com saw the potential of the Internet as a new mind-expanding tool for young people. They wanted to engage children in their Internet surfing, and bring greater multicultural awareness, global understanding, and hopefully, peace. The goal was to have children from around the globe get to know the world and each other better because of their new ability to surf the Internet. My Planet was conceived and created as an alternative directory that is designed just for kids. It is a fun globe-like interface where children can explore the world and gain an understanding (in their own terms) of people, places, animals, everyday life, games, cultures, holidays and key ideas from other countries.
My Planet was designed as a global Internet directory for kids, to provide an "exploratory experience" rather than a static page with a list of links. It is an "Internet Field Trip" to 12 different countries. For each country, 5-10 topics were selected and represented in a set of fun graphical icons. This was based on what good-quality websites were available on the Internet are suitable for the 12-and-under age group. Young children can surf and explore safely, through a large variety of web sites that were carefully picked and reviewed by an editorial board. All websites are about topics of particular interest to kids, such as: Animals, Food, Geography, Games, Nature, Languages, etc. In addition, real kids as well as kids' own websites from each country are featured if possible.
Countries featured to date are: USA, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, UK, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Australia, etc. Each country visit includes a brief audiovisual introduction, 5-10 categories for explorations (e.g., food, geography, games, holidays, etc.). The total number of kid-appropriate Websites integrated in the My Planet Field Trip is 200.