Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2013
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Alchemy ~ Genetics

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Crossing animals endlessly too much of a one-trick pony

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-8
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)
2

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Pros: Kids get to create new, surprising types of animals.

Cons: Some outcomes aren't logical, and the reading level will be too high for many.

Bottom Line: Alchemy ~ Genetics can get creative juices flowing, but it needs more complexity and less reliance on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia entries about the animals could be very challenging for students to read and comprehend. If they're struggling with the regular entries, though, or -- as we might guess -- just ignoring them, you can try introducing them to the Simple English Wikipedia website. You could also reinforce the idea of mixing by asking students to reflect on fruits like pluots and tangelos that are crosses of two other fruits.

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Alchemy ~ Genetics is likely to capture the attention of creature-loving kids. They can collect up to 525 animals and create new, weird ones. Starting with three animals, kids drag one over another or tap them to create strange combinations. The Plus button allows kids to add any whole animals to the play space, and pressing and holding in the list window displays an animal's characteristics, its current combinations, and a link to a Wikipedia entry about it. The light bulb, which is the challenge button, displays the creatures presently targeted for wild and wacky combinations.

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In the process of creating new combos, students can learn some animal vocabulary and how to follow and remember testing sequences. Also, if they read the Wikipedia entries, they might learn about wild animal biology. Some kids will find it amusing to be able to combine different sorts of animals. Others may get bored with the repetitive gameplay -- testing possible combinations over and over -- and won't engage with the wordy and adult-level scientific information on Wikipedia.

Some students will actually try to think about which characteristics they should use to create interesting challenge creatures, but for the most part, the logic is not all that logical: In this world, hedgehog plus dragonfly makes opossum, ant plus squirrel makes flea, and owl plus opossum makes eagle. Others do have some logic: Ant plus rat equals scorpion (we can see it!), and fish plus scorpion equals … scorpion fish! If nothing else, Alchemy ~ Genetics will get your students wondering about animal characteristics.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Graphics are cute and clean. Some kids will love collecting and making new, weird animals and might even read about the real critters. Others may get bored with repetitive gameplay.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
2

Kids can learn animal names and basic characteristics, and if they're feeling up to it they can read Wikipedia entries.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The help page explains a lot, but many kids are likely to skip it. The hint button helps a little, but not always. Navigation and gameplay can be confusing.


Teacher Reviews

2
(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
botanicqueen , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
2
A Tiger + A Lion = A Liger?

I thought the concept of this app was brilliant! The problem came in when I downloaded the app and began to run the program. The ideas were neat, but the animals one could create were fictional. The kids love this, but it was such a bad idea for teaching accuracy in how genetis actually works. Kids love cartoons, and using their imagination, but as a teacher when you are trying to teach the students accurate information about genetics, and even hybrids this site has far too much fiction. I do not want my students thinking these fictional animals are real possibilities. I did not like the idea that the way adaptations work are through mixing animals (animals that obviously cannot reproduce together) with ideal traits one could create the perfect animal. This may be a funny thought, but it gives our students the wrong idea. It will be hard in high school to teach the students deeper concepts about adpatations occurring over many generations if they remember playing a game where a bird reproduced with a cat and made flying cats.

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