When the 1998 Olympic Winter Games convene next month in Nagano, Japan, they won't be just fun and games to some youngsters.
In between viewing luge runs and ice hockey games on television, students can take to the World Wide Web to puzzle over the nature of friction on ice or the culture of Japan.
A new Web site called the "U.S. Olympic PBS Cyber School Powered by IBM" offers some 90 "challenges" related to the Olympics in mathematics, science, and social studies.
The site is meant to be a classroom resource for teachers, but it will be open to anyone with a Web-capable computer.
The address is www.pbscyberschool.org.
The challenges, designed for students in grades 4-8, blend math, science, and social studies concepts that are tied directly to national standards, said Michael E. Kauffman, the director of digital learning at the Public Broadcasting Service in Alexandria, Va., which is responsible for the site's content.
International Business Machines Corp. provided technical support.
Mr. Kauffman was a co-founder, along with John Gage, of the NetDay movement to wire schools to the Internet.
The problems are grouped under various winter sports, such as figure skating and snowboarding. Different series of problems are rated not by academic grade, but as "beginner," "intermediate," or "advanced." Each challenge has a discussion area labeled "Chew on This."
The challenges were written by teachers who serve as mentors in the National Teacher Training Institute, a technology program held at public-television stations around the country.
Members of SeniorNet, a global Web group of senior citizens, will evaluate the answers that students submit to win prizes and recognition.
The PBS site is not the only contender in the Olympic learn-a-thon on the Web.
Scholastic Network is offering "interactive learning adventures" that were scheduled to begin Jan. 26 and are to run through the end of February.
The project will allow students and teachers to go behind the scenes of Olympic events, interview athletes and sports reporters via on-line bulletin boards and live chats, and communicate with classrooms in Japan.
The Web address is www.ScholasticNetwork.com.
The network is a subscription service, but is offering a three-month free promotion, a company publicist said.
--ANDREW TROTTER [email protected]