Vol. 2, No. 1, April 2002
Zurk's Rainforest Lab 2.2
Reviewed by Enzo Ferrara
Zurk's Rainforest Lab
SOLEIL SOFTWARE, www.soleil.com
SOLEIL's Order Desk, 3853 Grove Court, Palo Alto (Ca)
To order: 1-800-501-0110 (from US only)
95/98 or NT version 4.0, 2000* or later, or Macintosh
Minimum hardware requirements:
A PC with 386SX:25MHz
or better processor
Microsoft Windows 3.1 or later
Quick Time for Windows (included)
8 MB of RAM SVGA graphics card (640x480x256 colors
minimum) with compatible monitor MPC-compatible
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers
hardware requirements: for Macintosh
||A Macinstosh with a 68030
processor or newer
640x480 (13") or larger color monitor
OS 7.0 or higher
Quick Time for Macintosh (included)
5 MB of RAM
Three Demos are available
on the CD for the other titles of the collection: WorldWalker:
Destination Australia (ages 8 to 12), Zurk's Alaskan Trek
(ages 6 to10), Zurk's Learning Safari (ages 3 to 6).
This is the trilingual version of Zurk's
Rainforest Lab. Spanish, French and English variants have
been provided on the same CD, but German and Japanese are
also available. All text, voices and narration can easily
be switched on the fly between the different languages.
The main purpose of this program is to offer the possibility
to learn languages while playing with the computer. The
product is aimed to pupils in ages from 5 to 9 and, in the
authors' intent, the software has to stimulate the interdisciplinary
thematic approach also in life science, math, literacy and
critical thinking. A resource guide notebook is included.
Different play activities are available.
Starting from "The Market Place" or "Mercado"
that is the main menu, children can move toward five different
scenarios. "Egghunt" lets the player wander in
the jungle environment over three screens connected by a
ladder with Nita the margay, searching out eggs and collecting
them in a basket. "Jungle Discovery" presents
the possibility to meet 50 different animals and plant life.
Along this path you have an accessible text box. It is possible
to have the text box disappear. On finding new animals,
the text associated with a new animal appears; one can hear
the animal's name or hear the text aloud. "Photo Album"
offers a virtual camera to freeze animals' images and record
comments with a written text. "Seek & Sort"
helps in learning how animals can be identified and categorized
according to their different classes. In "Pattern Puzzles"
early geometrical figures can be dragged, and have to be
correctly rotated, into a puzzled area to fill; three difficult
set levels of four puzzles exist, along with the possibility
for children to create their own composed pictures.
The software offers alternative activities,
always retaining the children's game aspect, and is useful
to introduce children to the wonder and variety of the jungle's
world. Students could be encouraged by fun and discovery
to return sometime in front of this program. Additionally,
they can take advantage of the multiple challenge levels
to interact in a fresh way with each of the proposed activities.
Zurk's Rainforest Lab is easy for teachers
and friendly for students. It is probably able to immediately
engage younger children with its charming cartoon character
and watercolor graphics and original music with a Latin
beat. Background and characters add to the story a book
atmosphere. The characters talk directly to the children.
The full offer of SOLEIL in the Teacher's
Version includes "Worldwalker", "Zurk's Alaskan
Trek", "Zurk's Rainforest Lab" and "Zurk's
Learning Safari." The full pack price of $124.95 is
not inexpensive if the standard level for other programs
matches that of Zurk's Rainforest Lab. The price for each
single program is $44.95. This would be quite economical
if at least two among the products were included.
In Zurk's Rainforest Lab it is only possible
to move from the central screen to the other scenarios and
vice versa. Unfortunately there is no on-screen help. However,
this is not a major failing thanks to the extreme simplicity
of the program and its operative requirements. Within the
documentation contained in the software package there is
a useful 42-page manual rich in suggestions on how to organize
additional activities after the presentation of Zurk's Activities
to the audience of children. For language learning, but
also for the other learning objectives of the software (reading,
math, literacy, science and art) a short glossary and an
exhaustive list of resources and book references are included.
Suggestions appear appropriate to optimize the program exploitation
as well as to pursue study on rainforest wildlife. Information
on how to get technical support from Soleil if things go
wrong is included in the manual, along with a two page troubleshooting
guide for the most common settling errors while installing
software (memory, file compressors, video display drivers,
In closing, Zurk's Rainforest Lab can not
be the only basis onto which any learning project can be
built. Teachers have to follow and sustain the play-work.
More convenient would be to use the program as the occasional
additional aid to vary the lesson's mood and to make profit
of the multifaceted opportunities given by multimedia systems.
The reviewer recommends Zurk's Rainforest Lab to be addressed
as an alternative teaching method toward younger students,
5 to 7 years old. The reader is cautioned not to assume
that accessing several consecutive lessons of this program
is recommended or useful for the class audience.