A trip to DOT's Web site offers transportation lessons

Several federal agencies have begun to follow a 1997 executive order from President Clinton to develop for teachers and students World Wide Web pages that describe and illustrate agencies' missions.

One of the more creative educational efforts to date comes from the Transportation Department. Point your browser to education.dot.gov to check out the Garret A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program, which features numerous educational Web pages for students of all ages. Named after the inventor of the traffic signal, the introduction page provides an overview of careers in various transportation fields and is divided into Web pages for elementary school children, high school students and college students.

For kindergarten through fifth grade, for example, youngsters can choose from a variety of bright, colorful animated icons to learn about various aspects of transportation. One option is the virtual fly-by of pilot Linda Finch's re-creation of Amelia Earhart's historic 1937 flight. For adults, this introductory page also features a lifelong learning link, which transports users to myriad transportation documents, such as electronic DOT library reading rooms, classrooms and outreach programs.

While the main page focuses on general transportation issues, scroll down the introductory page to view 10 more educational Web page options, which are part of the Morgan program. Each division of DOT offers information about its mission and provides well-designed, eye-catching art to attract young users.

Some of the best pages are those offered by the Federal Transit Authority, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The FTA offers an oversized map of a mythical American city, called Transit City, U.S.A. A good place to start is the information kiosk, which provides general directions for navigating through the city. Click on the Commuter Rail icon, for example, and users can choose educational programs about various commuter rail systems in U.S. cities.

The railroad administration also offers numerous choices, which are contained on a colorful map. Users can chug up the railroad "career mountain" and learn about jobs with Norfolk Southern and other companies, or they can attend railroad school and learn how to build a miniature steam engine.

Officials at the NHTSA offer Larry and Vince, the famous crash-test dummies, to serve as tour guides for this well-designed Web page. The dummies, which also are featured in mini TV commercials, provide informative lessons about wearing safety belts and other safety tips.

The dummies also encourage kids to create their own artwork about driving safety lessons that will be featured on the Web page.

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