Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2013
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National Parks by National Geographic

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From Acadia to Zion, text-heavy app highlights America's best parks

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
4-7 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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5 images

Pros: Top-quality NatGeo images showcase beauty of the parks.

Cons: Buying multiple guides can get pricey.

Bottom Line: More than 20 NPS parks with tons of info and photos.

Science or social studies classes can partner with language arts classes to complete cross-curricular research projects. The informative articles satisfy the Common Cores push for nonfiction literary texts and can be read in language arts or content area classes. Kids can complete reports using the app as a resource. Teachers can use the images and statistics to show landforms and nature. Classes can take a virtual field trip to a park (or parks!). Kids could work alone or in groups to plan a trip to one of the parks and present it to the class, including history of the area, geography, ecosystem, and more.

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National Geographic has compiled travel guides for 25 of the 59 U.S. National Parks into an easy-to-navigate app. Each park is featured with a breathtaking image on the start page. An interactive U.S. map shows the location of each of the parks. Each park's page includes info such as About the Park and How to Visit, along with a quick-reference Park Info, directions in Getting There, and details about Camping & Lodging. The front image for each park also includes the current temperature and a link to stats like local time and park size. The side bar includes a photo gallery, saved user-created itineraries, news, and Editor's Picks of trails and hikes.

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National Parks by National Geographic isn't designed for students specifically, but it can be good for learning. The articles are well-written and provide in-depth information that kids can transfer to learning into many academic areas -- science, U.S. geography, history, and reading comprehension. The images are absolutely amazing and engage younger kids who may not be ready to read the text-heavy articles. The facts and other data provide quick bits of information. This app can be a fun way for kids to research and explore U.S. geography through the photos and (for older kids) the detailed information in the articles. Purchase complete guides with trail guides, articles, professional images, and more, or follow the link provided by the app for each park's website for much of the same information (for free).

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Overall Rating
3

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

Gorgeous images, well-written text, and the ability to personalize and share favorites engage kids.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Kids learn in self-directed, self-motivated fashion as they read and explore America's parks through the app.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Planning a trip -- virtual or real -- is easy using the itineraries. Complete park guides can be purchased for $1.99 each, but each park's page includes a link to the park's website, which offers much of the same information.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Marcello S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School
San Jose, CA
1
A good way to see an overview of parks, but only works as a stepping off point.

I only used the free version with my students, if you pay an extra 12 or 13 dollars you can get more in depth park guides which may glean more educational value. The free version really only acts as a list of the most popular parks, once kids click on a park they can see a couple pictures of the park, then I had them click on map to explore where the park was, then click on stats for a couple of interesting facts. Once that happened they would go to other websites and explore the park online (a great way to go over the 50 states is looking at state parks). So this really just acted as an intro to the parks and a quick overview and location tool. It is the most visual and engaging way for them to look over our nations biggest and best national parks (as far as a slideshow like quick flip through). If the $12 expansion pack was cheaper or free this would most likely make a much better educational app, be awesome if they had a discount for educators!

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