App review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2015
Ocean Forests
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Ocean Forests

Young learners explore biodiversity in gorgeous undersea world

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Kids can learn a lot about an important ecosystem and apply what they learned through gameplay.

Cons: Kids can't bookmark pages in the ebook, making it difficult to pick up where they left off.

Bottom Line: Ocean Forests is a great resource for introducing ecosystems to young learners, and would be even better with a few additional games and interactives to apply learning.

Use Ocean Forests to boost reading skills during a unit about ecosystems. Kids can read in small groups and take turns playing the games to assess their learning. Download the Teacher's Guide for detailed lesson plans that incorporate the NGSS and Common Core ELA standards. As an extension activity, have kids create dioramas of a kelp forest. 

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Kids tap a "Dive!" bubble to immerse themselves in a beautiful underwater world. There are three main learning categories: Reading, Exploring, and Gaming. In Reading, kids can listen to a narrated ebook about kelp forests, read the book on their own, or record themselves reading the book aloud. In Exploring, kids can tap features of the kelp forest environment to hear about the feature. For example, if they tap on the harbor seal, they learn about the seal's ecology. If kids tap on a feature multiple times, they learn new information. In Gaming, kids can play two games that test their knowledge of kelp forests. There is also a tutorial that explains the app's features. This part is not narrated, so younger kids may need assistance.

When used in conjunction with the Teacher's Guide (available on the developer's blog at, Ocean Forests aligns with a few NGSS Performance Expectations and Disciplinary Core ideas. Kids can read about animals, plants, and non-living features of the kelp forest ecosystem while building vocabulary with the interactive dictionary. They can either read on their own or listen to narration, which supports kids with varying reading abilities. There is a highlighting feature within the narrated version so kids can more easily follow along. In both versions, they can tap a word to hear it and access the dictionary to learn even more.

The various reading options are great, but it would be nice if kids could navigate the ebook by chapter, or bookmark the page they last read. The exploration section of the app teaches kids more detailed information about specific parts of the kelp forest, helping them make a connection between visual and text versions of scientific concepts. The two games offer kids an opportunity to apply what they learned in a fun arcade-like setting. Additional games would be a welcome upgrade. Overall, though, this is a visually stunning, solid science resource for early-elementary students.

Overall Rating


Kids will be drawn in by the beautiful graphics and mesmerizing sound effects. The interactive features will keep them engaged, although kids would probably like to see a few more games.


Kids can learn a lot about science while building vocabulary. The graphics do an excellent job of supporting the content.


The options for listening, reading, or recording their own voices support kids with varying abilities. The Teacher's Guide is an excellent resource for extension activities.

Common Sense reviewer
Debbie Gorrell Educator

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