Over the years I've waxed lyrical about the 'living' books we use - stories that teach math, science or history concepts as you read. We were asked to consider reviewing Orphs of the Woodlands by Star Toaster and when I discovered it was in effect a living book but online, I jumped at the chance.
Orphs of the Woodlands is described as an online education game, its an interactive and fun way to encourage kids to read (and secretly learn loads)
Your first task when you have logged in, is to choose a name for the main character (who is a secret agent in training) and then you start reading. The story is funny and really engaging - its the adventurous journey of an orphaned, bitter squirrel who becomes a caring, educated agent whose task is find the treasure of High Tower and save Orphs. You are pitted against the Night Creatures, who are also after the treasure.
In the truest sense of a living book - as you read the story, you learn! It's packed full of word definitions, math knowledge, science, famous quotes, nutritional information, critical thinking, character skills, music and loads more. The story is interactive, so not only do you learn via the story but if they read a word they are unsure of they can click it to find the meaning, there are also pop up lesson movies from various characters as well as clickable sound effects, music and recipes. The story is fifteen chapters long and it can take a good 45mins to read a chapter and complete the 'jobs'.
At the end of each chapter your character has the chance to work using the knowledge gained from the story and earn gold stars (the currency of the woodland) which you then use to rescue and care for orphaned woodland creatures (you can buy them plots of land, food, clothing, defence, medicine, water etc. the better you get at caring for the Orphs, the more come to you)
These 'jobs' are based on what you have learnt whilst reading the chapter and are divided into different categories (the more you get right in each category, the more gold stars you earn). In case you don't remember everything you read there is a review snippet before each job. The jobs are usually a multiple choice question. For example you can earn gold stars by working in a print shop (vocabulary jobs - defining word that were in the story), working as a cookie consultant (advising on the nutritional value of ingredients) or as a talented tutor (teaching another character about algebra)
The Parent page is easy to navigate - you can check you child's status, view the skills completed and view lessons as well as read the book.
Lilly(12), Sunflower (10) and Tulip (8) all used this (Rose felt left out and thought it looked fun so she ended up sitting in with Tulip while we read the story together). Both Lilly and Sunflower used this without any help from me - they loved it and it was often hard to get them off the computer because they were so engaged : )
Tulip falls just outside their suggested age range of 4th - 7th grade, so I read it with
When I asked the girls for their thoughts on Orphs of the Woodlands they said:
"Best game ever - I loved building new homes for the Orphs"
"My favourite part was Prof Forp always saying to learn 'New Information Daily' and when they used cute animals to encourage me to be industrious or believe I can do it"
"It's so much fun - I can't wait for book two"
Their only disappointment was that a number of the recipes contained nuts (he is a squirrel) and they have nut allergies - Sunflower thought the nut bread looked especially appealing.
I loved the amount they learnt (I even got told to have a peppermint tea when my tummy was sore)
and how engaged they were by the story - It's so well written and really captures their imagination. I thought the game looked amazing - its really pretty and well designed. I think Orphs is a great product and is defiantly our favourite review so far.
You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog