By Jeannine anderson
WASHINGTON – It’s supposed to be for kids, but it’s pretty fun for grown-ups, too.
The children’s section of the Environmental Protection Agency’s home page on the Web offers some whimsical views of the ocean.
It’s also full of project ideas, word games and other neat stuff.
Go to http://www.epa.gov and click on “kids.” There’s a menu called “Fun Things” and another called “How You Can Help.”
In the first category you can find scenes of ocean life, as envisioned by preschool and grade-school children. You also can find instructions for a science project, a diagram of the Earth’s water cycle, and a collection of drawings depicting the problems with the planet’s protective layer of ozone.
In the second category, you can find an intriguing item called Bloopers, an Earth Day coloring book and water education posters.
In one of the children’s drawings of ocean life, sharks dive torpedo-like at doomed prey while below, in a calmer zone, an octopus takes a leisurely stroll on the ocean floor.
There’s a portrait of a purple whale with polka dots, and an impressionistic beach scene with windblown palm trees.
Lots of other fun things can be found on the kids’ page. There are word games in both English and Spanish and directions for building your own mini-ecosystem in a jar.
One of the more whimsical features of the kids’ section, found under the “How You Can Help” menu, is called “Bloopers: embarrassing moments in the life of a water drinker.”
Tossing batteries in the trash is a blooper because they contain lead and mercury – poisons that can contaminate water.
Watering your lawn at high noon is another blooper, because it wastes water. The midday sun “will evaporate the water your lawn needs,” Bloopers says. “Better water early in the day.”
The illustrations for the Bloopers section are charming. But to find out what they are, you’ll have to go there yourself.
The kids’ pages are part of a mammoth remake of the EPA’s home page that took a year to complete, said the EPA’s Emma McNamara, 53, of Washington, D.C., one of the brains behind the site’s new look.
The agency combed through thousands of pages of data already on the Web site, looking for ways to rearrange the information to make it more appealing and easier for people to find, she said.
The rebuilt site went on line in October and is attracting a much larger audience. Before the remake, the site was getting between 3 million and 4 million hits, or views, a month, McNamara said. Now it’s getting about 6 million.
In a recent survey of some 10,000 Internet sites, Computerworld newspaper selected the EPA’s as among the 100 best.
“We were quite excited about that,” said Jonda Byrd, an EPA librarian who worked with McNamara on the remake.
The way to inspire children to protect the environment “is to do what’s interesting,” said Richard Martin, director of the EPA’s Enterprise Information Management Division. “And what’s interesting is the World Wide Web.”
“If you make things fun, kids pay better attention,” said Charlene Shaw, program coordinator for the EPA office that regulates tap water. And, she added, “If we can get the kids involved, we can get the parents.”