App review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2013
Marine Missions

Marine Missions

Simple app sets young kids sailing in the waters of ocean conservation

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Creativity

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Pros: Fun games and activities ease young kids into learning about a rather heavy topic.

Cons: Not much depth, and sea creature info and photos could be easier to find.

Bottom Line: Fun, sea-level learning about ocean conservation for young kids.

Use Marine Missions as part of a unit study on oceans, marine life, environmental conservation, or recycling. The games to bring some fun to the heavy topic of ocean pollution; and can lead to discussions about how can we help garbage stay out of the world's oceans in real life. If kids play in the Creature Builder, talk about each of the animal parts from which they can choose: What animal does this part really belong to? What does it help the animal do, and why do you want to include it on yours?

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Marine Missions is a science app that promotes ocean conservation through fun mini-missions and activities. It encourages very young app users to think about what humans need to do to clean up the world's oceans. Kids tap "Play" then choose the first challenge by tilting (or tapping) the iPad to move a boat on the screen to the correct spot on the map. In one activity, kids tap trash to toss it into a recycling bin and swipe to clean up an oil spill. In another, they swipe or tilt the screen to move a cute hermit crab over blowholes to recapture his mask. The Creature Builder provides lots of choices for making a pretend sea animal, and kids can also see photos with real sea life. There's also some basic sea animal facts and photos in the app. Through these very simple games that encourage kids to pick up trash in the on-screen ocean or swipe up oil spills, kids get the essential messages about what pollutes our oceans. Nothing too deep in these waters, but just enough information and engaging play to set young kids sailing into ocean conservation. 

Marine Missions is a fun way for very young kids to learn simple ideas for ocean conservation: trash and oil are bad for oceans. Kids can also have some fun making silly, imaginative sea animals and learning about real ocean creatures. While the beautiful map and voice instruction helps kids learn the names and locations of the different oceans and continents, kids aren't going to learn a lot of details or find great academic challenge on this app. Still, they can learn some new ocean-related vocabulary and a bit of info about sea creatures. Marine Missions is all about helping kids start to think about marine ecology through small waves of fun and creative play.

Overall Rating


Marine Missions engages kids through fun, simple games that are designed with the youngest app users in mind. The imaginative Creature Builder is particularly engaging, with many choices and free creative play.


Beautiful world map helps kids find games and includes audio narration of the names of the world's oceans. Brief written information (with an audio option) and photos of sea animals add a simple marine biology lesson.


Clear verbal and visual instructions abound. Adults can find written instructions for some activities under the "For Families" tab.

Common Sense reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
August D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ridgewood Elementary School
Eureka, United States
A simplistic, but age-appropriate, introduction to healthy marine habitats.
Overall, I am pleased that National Geographic and the National Science Foundation produced a free, quality app for young children to address the issue of ocean pollution. Used whole group, this app can be a terrific springboard for a sometimes difficult topic. The simplistic way pollution is addressed in this app would not be adequate for older children (e.g. oil spills are not erased as if by magic), but seem very appropriate for a pre-K and K introduction. However, without an adult contributing to th ...
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