In Test of Time, an A+ for LAUNCH POINT

For a year now, Launch Point has been guiding you to the best educational Internet sites for your homework, reports and extracurricular projects. UC Irvine experts in the educational use of computers have sifted the World Wide Web to find a range of fun and informational sites for elementary school through high school on 51 topics. Those subjects have been as big as the solar system and as small as insects, as old as dinosaurs and as new as modern dance.

Don't despair if you haven't been clipping and keeping all your Launch Point columns from the past year. You can find all the sites simply by clicking onto The Times' Launch Point Web site. And in celebration of Launch Point's anniversary, the Times site has been updated to give you the most current sites and reorganized by subject to help you find the topic you need quickly and easily. To see the new and improved Web site, visit http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint/

ARTS

Visual Arts

Adventures in Art: Get inspired to create your own masterpieces through these drawing and creative thinking exercises, interactive art games, online art galleries and a journey through the history of art.

Discovering Art: Whether it's an Escher interlocking pattern or an African sculpture, feast your eyes on art from around the world and learn the stories behind the artists and their works.

Performing Arts

Dance: Experience dances from many countries and cultures: Listen to the music, learn about the steps and costumes, find out the meanings behind the movements, and see video clips of performances.

Drama: Whether you want to perform before the footlights or work behind the scenes, choose from a variety of drama resources: acting exercises, screenwriting tips, reader's theater scripts and patterns for making puppets and costumes.

Music: Learn about music in all its forms, from the notes on the page to orchestral instruments to international musical styles and famous composers.

CUSTOMS, CELEBRATIONS AND HOLIDAYS

Martin Luther King Day: Relive the drama of the U.S. civil rights movement: View photos of key figures and events such as Rosa Parks and the lunch counter sit-ins and hear excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches.

April Fool's Day: Learn the history of this holiday, get ideas for April Fool's pranks, and tickle your funny bone with this assortment of knock-knock jokes, puns, cartoons and student bloopers.

Cinco de Mayo: Learn about the 1862 Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla through historic accounts, profiles of key historical figures, and tips for celebrations, including how to make a pinata.

Halloween/All Saints Day/Day of the Dead: Find out the stories behind these three autumn holidays that reflect upon death.

Thanksgiving: Read about the Pilgrims and their celebration of the first Thanksgiving, find out about the holiday's origins in the old English harvest festivals, and try some quizzes, recipes and games.

Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa: Uncover the meanings and traditions behind the Christian observance of Christmas, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the African American celebration of Kwanzaa--all of which occur in December.

LANGUAGE ARTS

Authors: Find out all about your favorite authors through biographies, interviews, a portrait gallery, a literary calendar and even Laura Ingalls Wilder's photo album.

Literature: Travel to mysterious lands and meet fascinating people by reading some wonderful online stories: from Theodore Tugboat and "The Wizard of Oz" to Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott and William Shakespeare.

Reading: Exercise your reading and thinking muscles with an assortment of fun activities: Read literary classics, participate in interactive stories and test your vocabulary knowledge.

Writing Reports: Get help for all of your writing questions, from taking notes and developing outlines to writing essays, revising your work and citing sources in a bibliography.

MATHEMATICS

Mathematics: Whether you're doing multiplication tables or calculus equations, you'll find clear explanations of mathematical concepts as well as some fun math puzzles, games and tips.

HISTORY/SOCIAL SCIENCE

Geography

Arctic Circle: Discover the land above 60 degrees latitude, with its diverse plants and wildlife, wonders like the Northern Lights, and amazing artifacts that demonstrate how ancient people survived harsh conditions of minus 30 degrees Celsius.

India: Marvel at the beauty and achievements of this South Asian country with its influential philosophies, architectural diversity, innovative music and numerous scientific discoveries.

Israel: Experience this vibrant land with more than 3,000 years of history--from the stone monuments in Jerusalem to the salty Dead Sea.

National Parks: Learn about the more than 350 U.S. national parks through categories including geology, archeology, wildlife and even scenic drives. See videos of Mt. St. Helen's eruptions.

ECONOMICS

Basic Economics: Find out the history of money, what checks are and why banks pay interest. Try your hand at buying and selling stocks on Wall Street, and see if you can balance the national budget.

Careers: Get some help planning your future through an online career center, quizzes that help you determine your interests and working styles, and lots of facts on various careers.

U.S. HISTORY

U.S. Revolution: Pore over maps, timelines, analysis and commentary, and historical documents of this era. Study famous battles and take virtual tours of historic spots in Philadelphia.

California History: Walk through one of California's missions and find out how they were built by Spanish missionaries and the first Californians--various Native American tribes. Hear California's history come alive through stories from Gold Rush prospectors and Manzanar internment camp survivors.

California Native American tribes: The Chumash, Gabrielino and Miwok are just a few of the California tribes you can learn about here, from maps and histories to basketry, medicine and pictographs.

Civil War: Learn about Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States of America, the many battles at places like Bull Run and Atlanta, and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation. View letters, diaries, photos and newspapers of the time.

Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.: Significant moments, timeline of events, photos and biographies on Martin Luther King Jr., even an MLK trivia game.

Discovering America: Theories on who the first Americans were, and background on early explorers of the Americas, including the Vikings and Columbus.

U.S. Presidents: Look into the lives and achievements of 41 presidents, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

U.S. Westward Expansion: Explore the people, places and events of the West, including Lewis and Clark, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Pony Express and the Oregon Trail.

WORLD HISTORY AND CULTURES

Ancient Egypt: Explore the mummies, pyramids, gods and rulers, history and daily life of this ancient civilization. View artifacts and learn about the Rosetta stone.

Ancient Greece: Democracy, the Olympics, the Pythagorean theorem--find out about the many achievements of the Ancient Greeks in the fields of medicine, art, architecture, politics and science.

Ancient Rome: Whether it's togas or chariot races, you'll learn more about this influential civilization through photo tours, stories of daily life and an online encyclopedia of Roman emperors.

Mayas, Incas and Aztecs: Discover the arts, sciences and architecture of these civilizations based in Mexico and Central and South America. Explore Maya sites, listen to Aztec music and learn how to decipher Incan, Maya and Aztec symbols.

SCIENCE:

Earth Sciences

Conservation/Ecology: Learn about environmental dangers--such as air and water pollution and acid rain--and how to help protect the environment. Explore endangered species, recycling, energy usage in the 1740s versus today, and energy-saving tips.

Earthquakes: What causes earthquakes, and what should you do if one occurs? Learn about plate tectonics, the Richter scale for quake measurement and earthquake preparedness.

Geology: Learn how rocks are formed, how to identify and use rocks and minerals, the theory of plate tectonics and the methods used to determine a rock's age.

Solar System: Learn about the planets and interesting space phenomena. Find out how you can view planets without a telescope and stay up-to-date on the latest discoveries.

Volcanoes: Where are they, what are their roles? Learn to make a model volcano, take an online quiz, view photos and even learn about volcanoes on other planets.

Weather: Discover the world of clouds, hurricanes and other phenomena. Learn terminology and how to make your own weather instruments. View current weather conditions across the country and the role played by El Nino.

LIFE SCIENCES

Bird Migration: Read about which birds migrate, what routes they take and what methods birds use to navigate.

Dinosaurs: Become acquainted with the types of dinosaurs and see a dinosaur egg "hatch." Find out about current dinosaur research and discoveries.

Habitats: Get an in-depth look at the climate, physical features and wildlife of environments from all over the world. Try making your own ecosystem in an aquarium or terrarium.

Human Body: Discover how each part of your body works and what causes certain conditions like acne, asthma or diabetes.

Insects: From butterflies and fleas to spiders and millipedes, find out about the amazing diversity and interesting habits of the creatures that make up almost 90% of animal life on Earth.

Marine Life: From sand dollars to sea urchins to humpback whales, meet many sea creatures and find out the answers to a lot of fishy questions. Know what to bring and do when visiting a tide pool, and get advice on how to become a marine biologist.

Nutrition: Learn about the food pyramid, good eating habits and how the digestive system converts food into energy. Try recipes for healthful snacks and create your own personal nutrition profile.

Plants: From pollination to photosynthesis, unravel the mysteries of plants and how they grow. Try some gardening activities and find out how to keep plants healthy.

Reptiles: Whether it's sea turtles or crocodiles, lizards or rattlesnakes, there's much you can learn about these cold-blooded creatures, from their biology and proper care to some amazing facts.

Whales: Learn various whale facts including how to identify the types of whales, and listen to some whale sounds.

Wild Animals: From giant anteaters and armadillos to hairy-nosed wombats and Grevy's zebras, find out about all sorts of animals.

PHYSICAL SCIENCES

Physics: Experiments you can try at home, plus animation that demonstrates motion and the effects of gravity.

REFERENCE TOOLS

Reference Materials: Dictionaries, translators, quotations and a wide assortment of other reference materials including maps, ZIP Codes, currency and measurement converters.

Writing Reports: Get help for all of your writing questions: from taking notes and developing outlines to writing various types of essays, revising your work and citing sources in a bibliography.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This anniversary edition of Launch Point was created and written by Anna Manring.

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