Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014
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Plants by Tinybop

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Kids control time, climate, wildlife in highly interactive app

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1-5
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)
3

Take a look inside

5 images

Pros: Lots of interactive features, colorful graphics, and cool sound effects make learning fun.

Cons: Unstructured learning style may not work well for some kids. Scientific information about plants is limited.

Bottom Line: Engaging interactive resource on biomes encourages open-ended exploration, but don't expect kids to learn a lot of details about plants.

If you're teaching kids about Earth's biomes, particularly the desert or temperate forest, start the lesson by having kids explore the biomes in Plants by Tinybop with a partner or in small groups. Read the discussion questions aloud first so kids know what to think about as they explore. Then come together as a class and review the discussion questions. To extend the information about plants, invite each student to research and present a brief oral report about one plant found in the targeted biome.

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Plants by Tinybop is an open-ended learning tool that encourages kids to explore at their own pace. Adults must set up user accounts in the dashboard, which is nice for sharing devices in the classroom. At the home screen, kids tap their user icon to get started. They can choose either the desert or the temperate forest. In each biome, kids tap and drag to explore plants and animals in their natural habitat. They can also plant seeds, make it rain, and spin a dial to observe daily cycles. Kids can drag a slider across the bottom of the screen to observe life beneath the soil. Colorful graphics and fun sound effects enhance the experience and make it engaging for kids of all ages. 

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Plants by Tinybop is an interactive diorama that takes kids on a virtual journey through two different biomes: desert and temperate forest. Kids can explore each biome and its plant and animal life by tapping or dragging interactive features. They can learn about plants, animals, seasons, and general weather conditions in the biomes. When kids tap a plant, they learn the name of the plant and explore some of its characteristics. For example, when kids tap the alfalfa plant in the desert biome, the name of the plant appears on the screen above a seed buried in soil. Kids can tap a cloud to make it rain and watch as the seed grows into an adult alfalfa plant. They can spin a dial to observe what happens from sunrise to sunset and how a biome changes with the seasons. Learning is very open-ended, and free exploration is the name of the game with this app, which works well for some kids. Many kids will need some guidance to get the most out of the learning experience, however. A free, downloadable handbook on the developer's website is an excellent resource. It includes more detailed information about the biomes and a series of discussion questions to share with kids. 

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Overall Rating
3

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

Colorful graphics and realistic sound effects make for a highly engaging biome and give kids lots of opportunities for exploring and controlling the environment.

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

Learning is based on free exploration and interaction with no formal games or activities. Plant and animal labels help kids build basic vocabulary. More instructions could help kids who struggle with open-ended exploration.

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

Adults can enter and track users on the dashboard. The free, downloadable handbook is a great resource for discussion questions and more detailed information about the biomes.


Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
Jennifer K. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
3
Plants in Real Life

Tinybop gives students the opportunity to create and maintain their own plant environment. They can observe the affects of weather, animals and season on three different environments. It teaches students about some of the plants and animals that live in each environment. You can also click on plants and see a diagram of the parts of each plant.It has a zoom in feature to get a close up of the environment.
This could be a great tool to show plant and animal interactions over time, however this app does not hold student's attention like Tinybop's other apps. One of the drawbacks to the to the app is that you can only plant one kind of seed in each environment. I wish students had more control of the environments.
Even with the apps drawbacks it has potential to be an effective tool to teach about plants and be a good addition to your app collection.

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