Grown-ups like county kids' site

Miami-Dade's Web site for children is a magnet for adults, employees and content creators

When Miami-Dade County in Florida started its Web site for children (kids.miamidade.gov) in October, its goal was to educate kids about county government and encourage their participation in civic life. Now it seems that the adults want to get in on the fun.

A recent addition to the site, a Cool Careers section, aimed to let kids know that there are lots of interesting jobs in government other than police and firefighting. Children can learn about government careers and what they need to do if they want to work in government when they grow up.

"Then we started to find there were a lot of adults who were finding things out about the county that they didn't know before from the site," said Judi Zito, director of e-government for Miami-Dade.

The upshot was a second-tier goal for Cool Careers as a place where county workers can find out what their fellow employees do in the large Miami-Dade government.

Now, other parts of the government want to get in on the action with a spot on the aquatic-themed site. The county libraries will soon be included, the Water and Sewer Department wants to add a section on water conservation, and the Public Safety Department link will soon appear as a jellyfish with a rotating light on its head.

Zito believes adults are drawn to the site because of its playful approach to the issues and its "child-like" simplicity.

The site received much more attention than was first expected, and Zito hopes that all the activity will generate some money.

Created on less than a shoestring budget with donated labor, the site has become a creative magnet for many content creators in the county government.

And now that the county school district is trying to find ways to introduce the site and its approach in classrooms, Zito said she is thinking about asking the county for funding.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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