Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2019
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Plant life cycle app has detailed AR but little help

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Interactive elements and quality visuals; AR makes it feel more real.

Cons: Some AR elements don't always work; large plant requires a large space to move around; lack of teacher resources.

Bottom Line: This inexpensive plant life cycle app is a fun way to get up close and personal with plant processes, but needs an accompanying lesson for context.

Teachers can work Plantale into any lesson on plants, biology, or life/reproductive cycles. Students will get the most out of the experience if they are given some context for what they are learning first, so orient yourself to what's contained within the app and create a pre- and post-mini-lecture -- with visuals -- of the topic. Since the in-app activity of planting your own sunflower progresses in "real time," plan to do the main lesson on a Monday during a five-day school week, thus allowing students to tend to their growing plants daily throughout that week.

Using phones with Plantale makes it easier to move around and study different parts of the plant anatomy and processes, but phone screens can be very small, which makes it harder to see detail and read the small text. Using a tablet gives students a better look but makes it harder to move around easily. Find what works best for your classroom situation.

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In Plantale, students have the opportunity to explore a sunflower plant's life cycle and reproductive cycle in augmented reality (AR). Four different options within the app allow students to examine the plant and step through the stages of growth, from planting the seed to reproducing to withering and dying. Animations, labels, informative text, and interactive elements help students see what happens in a plant, from the outside in, during all of these stages. The app covers internal anatomy and gives students a good look at the outside of the plant during every stage from seed onward. Topics such as room temperature, pH, and how much to water the plant are addressed, briefly. Students can also plant their own sunflower in AR and then return to that spot over the next several days to watch it grow, watering and fertilizing it to keep it healthy.

  • In Germination, students disperse seeds from a sunflower, and one lands in a pot. They then set the water level, temperature, and pH for optimal growth. Students can move a slider from seed to plant and learn all the stages in between, seeing the plant grow.
  • In AR Plant, the device will use the camera and ask students to place the plant in a real-life spot in their surroundings. Students then study each plant part individually, examining it, rotating it, or zooming in on it, to see individual features and cross-sections. This fun feature also shows animations of plant processes in action, such as water being drawn up the stem, leaves absorbing carbon dioxide, and flowers blooming.
  • In Reproduction, students watch the plant go through pollination, germination, division by mitosis, and more. Students can rotate and zoom at each stage, and dragging the slider reveals a smooth transition between stages.
  • In Activity, students can grow their own plant, choosing where to place the pot. They set the growing conditions, and check back in the same location each day to see growth and tend to their plant. This activity doesn't always work, with the plant sometimes moving to a nearby location or not showing up at all.

If students go slowly through Plantale, looking closely and carefully at all of the plant stages and truly studying the processes, they'll come away with a good understanding of plant life and reproductive cycles. They'll learn a small amount about optimal growth conditions, and they'll observe and drive stages of germination, plant growth, pollination, and reproduction. Plus, if they can get the in-app activity to work, tending to and nurturing their own plant can teach even the youngest students what kind of care goes into plant life.

Plantale includes a very basic orientation to how the app works and occasional prompts to tap on things, but it's mostly about exploration. Since it really is a systematic lesson on how plants grow and reproduce, a bit more guidance within the app would be helpful, especially an educator's guide that includes all of the steps and functionality (to help teachers make sure students are getting the most out of the experience). Since the proper terminology is used in the app, an accompanying vocabulary sheet would also be helpful to assist students in spelling and reading the terms.

Overall Rating

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

The gorgeous visuals and familiar premise of the app will interest students, but they'll work through the steps quickly, and the app might "lose" the AR plant that they grow.

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

Breaking down plant growth and reproduction into minute steps with interactive elements throughout, this app gives students a very close look at plant processes in motion.

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

The app includes some basic guidance about how to use it, but much of its functionality will need to be discovered through exploration; a teacher's guide or other resources would improve it.

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