How I Use It
Each week I take my students into the redwood forest behind our school to enjoy hands-on, experiential learning. It was with that in mind that made me excited to share this app with my students. While it does demonstrate some of the relationships among biotic and abiotic factors in the environment, those relationships are passively addressed. I did project the app onto my large display monitor to explain some of the interactions occurring (e.g. the role of water and food in the lives of animals) but once left to independent play students mostly like to zoom in on the animals and try to endlessly feed them. Another common activity for students was taking screenshots, which is a function embedded in the app, so mind your storage capacity!
I see this app as more dessert than meal. It's fun and calm, zen even, but don't expect very much more if used without direct adult input.
Next school year I plan on introducing the app, following our unit on animal habitats. If tasked with a written or visual checklist of animals and geography to observe, I may be tempted to up my rating of this tool a bit more. However, in light of this year's experience I will likely relegate it to the "unused" folder on our iPads a week or two after to avoid having to delete a thousand photos of bears eating mushrooms.
However, this app, like most Toca products, is solidly made, user friendly, and generally enjoyed by children. While not a stand alone learning tool it is worth the cost for the enjoyment your students will get out of it.