KENAI PENINSULA’S AMAZING WATER MAZE
For the annual Caring for the Kenai contest, Alden Ford created a computer program to engage fifth-and sixth grade students in discovering and exploring basic facts about watersheds, groundwater and the interaction of people and water on the Kenai Peninsula. He wanted his program to help kids understand their environment in an entertaining and challenging way.
Hyperstudio, a multimedia presentation program, was a simple and easy way to put all the information together, and was a program he had access to. The Maze is in a multiple choice, quiz-like format, but it is designed to be explored, so students are encouraged from the start to take all the paths, and have fun, rather than have to stress out to pick the “right” answers. Every “wrong” answer leads the explorer to deeper information, eventually returning to the question to try again, or to further questions which illustrate the concepts step by step, and give the program an element of interactivity.
Alden began the Maze with some general water questions, regarding the amount of water on Earth, the amount of water in our bodies, the definition and significance of a watershed, and the concepts of ground water and the water table. As the Maze progresses, the questions become more difficult and specific to the Kenai Peninsula.
Alden won the Caring for the Kenai Contest and has presented his maze at several regional conventions. Since the original contest, he has expanded the program, adding more movies, animations, songs, and questions. Different nonprofit and state government agencies have funded the production of many copies of the CD. As the maze is used by other people, it is not only teaching kids about the natural water systems of the Kenai Peninsula, but is being used to encourage kids to do similar research on their own environmental questions in the places where they live, offering a fun, workable example of how a simple program can be used to explore complex topics.