Science Curiosity and Wonder
Type of technology: iPad Apps
SAMR Model Rating: Redefinition
Grade level: 1st, 4th, 5th
Subject area: Science
I have something to confess, and it may be surprising coming from a teacher. I hated science in elementary school. It consisted of textbooks and a science fair. That’s pretty much it.
As a teen, I planned to be a dentist and was a biology major for a good chunk of time in college. I didn’t get a degree in biology. I got a BA in history. Why? I love history. What’s more important for this tale, I couldn’t draw on a strong foundation in science to be successful. Now, I dedicate a chunk of our class time to scientific inquiry, exploration, and research. When a child is drawn in, and the teacher is crafty in engaging thinking, students will happily invest time in exploring texts. I’ve given myself a second chance because I, like you, have a desire to learn and a desire to give the students in my class everything they need to be successful at the next level.
Curiosity and Wonder.
In the SBUSD, we do hands-on learning. Nothing can replace that. Brain research shows that we remember visually. We even remember the things we do physically, visually. What does that mean for students? Apps that trigger visual cues and then link them to texts have a strong impact on learning. Here are just a few really good ones.
Sound Uncovered by Exploratorium- Free
In 4th grade, we learn about sound waves. It happens in 1st too. This interactive app feels like you are at a science center because it was put together by the San Francisco Exploratorium. If you subscribe to the constructivist approach to learning, you’ll notice much of the 5-E instructional model within this app. Instantly, students are engaged by a question. They then get to explore the concept with an interactive. They push a button and the activity is explained, and then they go to the next module for elaboration. (There are others about time, color, and but I haven’t used that one). When curiosity drives learning, it’s good to be in the drivers seat.
Apps from the Laurence Hall of Science– Free
Lawrence Hall of Science are the folks who brought you FOSS, Hands-on inquiry based, science learning. There are a number of applications brought to you by groups like the NISE Network (Nanoscale Informal Science Education). DIY Nano HD, DIY Sun Science, DIY Lake Science, and DIY Human Body help students have fun while discovering how each of the respective content areas work. These apps are especially great for kids looking for science project ideas. Students can find hands-on activities using everyday items, indoor and outdoor activities. Videos and texts to accompany knowledge is also present.
Kids Discover Series- $2.99 each
From the people who bring you Kids Discover Magazine, we are introduced to 24 learning apps. The content in the Kids Discover Series ranges from science to history and geography. These are all very well put together. In 4th grade, I use the ones for Energy, Ecology, Electricity, Geology, and Simple Machines. Each one has about 8 rich video and animation enhanced topics (this is what makes the app worth it), one set of activities, a quiz (pretty pointless), as well as website and book recommendations for learning. I own the apps on my personal iPad so the school doesn’t have them on the cart. They can add up fairly quickly. Once kids use them, there isn’t much need to re-visit them.
A Word to the Wise
There are a lot of other apps that are fun and visual but don’t go very far after that. For example, Tiny Bots has one on the human body which is totally fun and allows you to explore the different body systems (skeletal, digestive, nervous) but doesn’t do much beyond that. If you use one like that, be prepared to connect it to reading, models, and of course, writing. Brain research shows that writing helps make memories concrete. When you choose an app, make it powerful. Use it to grab kids and make them want more, not just use the app and put it down.
I wish that I’d had these methods of exploring as a child, perhaps then, my “confession” would be that I had way too much fun reviewing science apps while watching The Walking Dead.