Watery wonders await on NOAA's Web site

Well-crafted "kids' sites'' on the World Wide Web showcase the medium at its best. While TV with the exception of the Public Broadcasting Service rarely uses its power to inform enlighten and educate numerous Web sites have heartily embraced this mission.

Tune into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's International Year of the Ocean Web site (www.yoto98.noaa.gov) to sample one of the newest and best examples of Web teaching. The United Nations has designated 1998 as the Year of the Ocean and NOAA has set up this site to highlight its key ocean environmental and research missions.

The site which delivers knowledge with a real flair also serves as the logical jumping-off point to other Year of the Ocean Web sites maintained by a variety of federal agencies ranging from the obvious— such as the Coast Guard and the Oceanographer of the Navy— to the obscure— such as the Office of Marin e Law and Policy in the State Department.

NOAA has fielded a well-designed main page for its site which serves as a platform from which to dive into a mass of ocean-related information. The agency is prominently featured on the opening page along with buttons that allow access to a "Reporter's Notebook " other ocean-related links and the superb "Kid's and Teacher's Corner."

The "Reporter's Notebook" section offers well-packaged stories and information on topics ranging from coastal development to the overall NOAA mission. While informative this section lacks the zing of the "Kid's and Teacher's Corner.''

The kids' pages invite involvement on every page such as subsections titled "25 Things You Can Do to Save a Coral Reef'' and the "Adopt-a-Buoy Activity Book " which offers a concise description of the buoys operated by NOAA and an explanation of how NOAA uses buoys to forecast weather.

This section then invites kids to "adopt'' a buoy by zipping over to the National Data Buoy Center home p age (www.ndbc.noaa.gov) clicking on a region of the world and then spending the year monitoring and charting the hourly observations from their "adopted'' buoys.

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