Content-Focused Software for Social Studies

Sherry L. Field
Elementary social studies teachers are constantly faced with the dilemma of addressing the various content disciplines. Many have discovered that by adding computer-based instruction to their social studies units, they provide a high-interest content strand for their students. The following reviews of recently released computer software and videos may help teachers select resources designed to address some of the content disciplines of elementary social studies. Please see "Surfing for Social Studies Software: A Practical Guide to Locating and Selecting Resources on the Internet" by Foster and Hoge (March/April 1997 Social Studies and the Young Learner) for additional titles, reviews, and websites.

Interdisciplinary Selections

The Backyard
Publisher: Br¿derbund
Publisher Address and Telephone:
500 Redwood Highway
PO Box 6125
Novato, CA 94948-6125
(800) 521-6263
Content Focus: Geography, Anthropology, and Science
Grades: Pre-K-3
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, Windows Floppy, MS-DOS Floppy
Price: $59.95; Lab packs and site licenses available.
Published: 1995
Children may visit The Backyard and find much more than they expect during an exploration of this award-winning software. The opening scene of the backyard provides opportunities for youngsters to click on an assortment of objects and be whisked away to far-away places and environments. Map-reading, classifying, ordering, and other skills are emphasized through scenarios such as locating buried treasure, assembling animal skeletons, and putting animals in their natural habitats.

Flying Colors
Publisher: Davidson and Associates, Inc.
Publisher Address and Telephone:
19840 Pioneer Ave.
Torrance, CA 90503
(800) 545-7677
Content Focus: Geography, Social Studies, Science, Language Arts, Mathematics
Grades: 3 and up
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, Macintosh CD-ROM, Windows Floppy, Windows CD-ROM
Price: $99.95; Lab packs and site licenses available.
Published: 1997
Flying Colors emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to learning, through comprehensive teacher materials. Suggested activities include collaborative and individual projects, oral and written reports and presentations, and student-parent activities. Students may engage in five interdisiplinary units that highlight social studies, science, geography, language arts, and mathematics.

History and Civics-Related Selections

Decisions, Decisions: Ancient Empires
Publisher: Tom Snyder Productions
Publisher Address and Telephone:
80 Coolidge Hill Road
Watertown, MA 02172-2817
(617) 926-6000
Content Focus: Ancient History
Grades: 5 and up
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, Windows Floppy
Price: $49.95; Lab packs and site licenses available.
Published: 1997
Participants in Decisions, Decisions: Ancient Empires are transported back in time to a struggling city-state with some very contemporary topics to consider. Students find their ancient culture endangered by a threatening empire, and they must decide what course of action to take: migrate or stay for a sure battle. As they make each decision, students participate in reflection, writing, and problem-solving.

Decisions, Decisions: Feudalism
Publisher: Tom Snyder Productions
Publisher Address and Telephone:
80 Coolidge Hill Road
Watertown, MA 02172-2817
(617) 926-6000
Content Focus: History of the Middle Ages
Grades: 5 and up
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, Windows Floppy
Price: $49.95; Lab packs and site licenses available.
Published: 1997
The realities of life during the Middle Ages are presented in this Tom Snyder offering. Students adopt the role of a feudal lord, learning not only what some of the benefits of that role might be, but also what heavy responsibilities must be encountered. For example, struggling with the issue of the Crusades, being a responsible lord, and dealing with the necessary growth of villages are problems to be solved by students who work together in teams.

Decisions, Decisions: Building a Nation
Publisher: Tom Snyder Productions
Publisher Address and Telephone:
80 Coolidge Hill Road
Watertown, MA 02172-2817
(617) 926-6000
Content Focus: Fundamentals of Government
Grades: 5 and up
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, Windows Floppy
Price: $49.95; Lab packs and site licenses available.
Published: 1997
In this simulation, a new nation has been formed, and many problems face its continuing growth and stability. Students work together to consider issues such as how the government will exist and what type it will be, the relationship the nation should have to the former colonial power, how the economy can grow and prosper, and what rights and power the nation's various ethnic citizens will share. For each choice made, consequences must be carefully considered.

Focus on Critical Issues Selections

Decisions, Decisions: Violence in the Media
Publisher: Tom Snyder Productions
Publisher Address and Telephone:
80 Coolidge Hill Road
Watertown, MA 02172-2817
(617) 926-6000
Content Focus: Sociology (Violence in
Society)
Grades: 5 and up
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, MS-DOS Floppy
Price: $149.95 (Classroom Kit)
Published: 1995
Teachers may wish to have their students take a serious look at the society in which they live by engaging them in Decisions, Decisions: Violence in the Media. Through their consideration of this complex topic, students will also learn about First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech; government regulations and censorship; and the effects of television violence on a person's behavior. Included with the software is a Teacher's Guide, Student Reference Books, and an Activity Guide.

Working It Out
Distributor: Sunburst Communications
Distributor Address and Telephone:
101 Castleton Street
P.O. Box 40
Pleasantville, NY 10570
(800) 431-1934
Content Focus: Psychology and Conflict Resolution
Grades: K-2
Format: 21-minute video, 32 activity sheets, and teacher's guide
Price: $129.95 (Order # 2627-TG)
Published: 1997
Children learn the benefits of Working It Out in this engaging video kit, part of the Good Solutions Series. Real-life situations that children can understand are shown in order to develop a notion of conflict resolution. For example, Allen and Stacey argue over who should have a turn on the swing, which results in a fight. Stacey is hurt and has to go the doctor's office. The doctor helps Allen and Stacey understand what a conflict is and how to avoid them in the future. Each scenario is repeated to demonstrate a different resolution technique. An open-ended scenario allows viewers to practice what they have learned. Other titles in the series include Ten Things to Do Instead of Hitting and Stop Teasing Me!

Economics Selections

The Magic Applehouse
Publisher: Thomson Learning Tools
Publisher Address and Telephone:
5101 Madison Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45227
(800) 354-9706
Content Focus: Economics
Grades: K-3
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, Macintosh CD-ROM, Windows Floppy, Windows
CD-ROM
Price: $64.50 (single pack); $149.50 (lab pack)
Published: 1996
Children should enjoy learning how to operate a business while assisting Abigail Appleseed with her baked goods business. Abigail must make product decisions, locate space, design advertisements, gather ingredients, follow
recipes, bake products, process orders, and collect money. Children will also become familiar with spreadsheets, data bases, and desktop publishing as they work with Abigail's business. Three skill levels are offered.

Classroom StoreWorks
Publisher: Tom Snyder Productions
Publisher Address and Telephone:
80 Coolidge Hill Road
Watertown, MA 02172-2817
(617) 926-6000
Content Focus: Economics; Math
Grades: K-6
Formats: Macintosh Floppy
Price: $49.95; Site licenses available
Published: 1997
Classroom StoreWorks is designed to help children organize and run their own store in the classroom. As they decide upon products, enter product and price information, write job descriptions, process orders, enter sales, charge tax, print receipts, make change, and calculate profits, students learn to make decisions that retailers face every day. Various activities may be adjusted to the abilities of student groups.

DinoPark Tycoon
Publisher: MECC (The Learning Company)
Publisher Address and Telephone:
6493 Kaiser Drive
Fremont, CA 94555
(800) 227-5609
Content Focus: Economics, Problem-Solving
Grades: 3 and up
Formats: Macintosh Floppy, MS-DOS Floppy
Price: $69; Lab packs and site licenses available
Published: 1995
In a final, award winning, economics-themed simulation, DinoPark Tycoon, students organize, plan, and operate a dinosaur theme park. Children must decide what kind of needs their dinosaurs will have, such as land, fencing, and food; how they will staff the park; how they will engage in daily activities and maintenance; and how they may need to adapt their plans. This program may be supplemented with research, cooperative groups, and additional instruction in keeping records.