Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016
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Weather by Tinybop

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Weather exploration empowers kids; needs offline scaffolding

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1-4
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Open-ended discovery of extreme weather will entice kids from the safety and comfort of the classroom.

Cons: Without teacher preparation and guidance, some kids may feel a bit lost.

Bottom Line: Highly interactive app demonstrates weather systems; works best when paired with additional offline instruction.

Though teachers could let kids freely explore these virtual weather systems on their own, kids will get a lot more out of their experience if teachers provide substantial input as well. Teachers can use the handbook as a guide to introduce the phenomena represented in the app. Then, let kids experiment with how the sun and air temperature affect land, water, and our behavior and comfort level.

Set up a separate user account for each kid to give them a sense of empowerment over their own world. Have kids make predictions, then change wind and air currents and see how that affects the weather. Look at the water cycle and clouds and introduce vocabulary terms such as "precipitation," "evaporation," and "condensation." Make sure kids have the label feature turned on to see the weather-related terms. Then, help make the connection to the real world: Have kids report on what happened in the app after manipulating things and what it's like to experience different weather in real life. Go on a cloud-hunting mission and talk about what kinds of clouds they are. Take out ice cubes, or have kids look in the bathroom after a hot shower to experiment with water through evaporation, freezing, condensation, and more.

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Weather by Tinybop is part of a series of exploration-based apps that delve into science and engineering topics. Kids tap and drag their way through a variety of weather systems and explore clouds, temperature, cyclones, precipitation, and more. With no guide or explanation, kids freely experiment making snowflakes, playing with heat and airflow, and creating storms. Each section has some close-up views of things like water molecules in the air or snowflakes forming from ice crystals.

Kids can turn labels on in the settings menu to get a bit of an idea of what they're looking at. Teachers can download a handbook online or in the app for a detailed guide of the themes the app explores. You can also choose from a long list of languages including Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, and many more. To reach the settings menu, however, teachers will need to provide an email address.

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Kids freely, and safely, explore and experiment in a fun virtual world full of rain, storms, snow, and extreme weather. This purposeful open-ended approach is great for letting kids take the lead, but Weather by Tinybop's lack of guidance -- which is intentional -- also runs the risk of leaving kids lost and confused. The handbook can help, and for this, teachers need to get intimately involved in working together with kids to discover and explain the complicated phenomena represented in the app.

Without support, kids could have fun drawing clouds or blowing houses away in a cyclone, but they may not take away much meaningful learning. Since a good number of the graphics are confusing as to what they represent -- especially the close-up looks -- turning on the labels can be a big help. Those who are familiar with other Tinybop apps will recognize the navigation features since they're consistent across titles; those who aren't might feel a bit lost. Overall, paired with solid offline support, Weather by Tinybop can be a fun and empowering way for kids to dig deeply into the science behind weather.

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Overall Rating

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

There are beautiful graphics and fun features. But a lack of structure means some kids might get lost and miss the opportunity for more meaningful engagement.

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

Kids learn about weather systems through free exploration and experimentation. Adjust temperature, blow cold or hot air, make clouds, or build a hurricane, and see what happens. Enabling the labels adds a lot to the learning experience.

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

There's a detailed handbook for teachers, but kids explore the app on their own without instructions. Student support rests on the teacher.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Margaret A P. , Other
Other
The Agnes Irwin School
Rosemont, PA
A fun way to explore basic weather concepts

This app provides a nice introduction to a variety of weather concepts but it seems a little less developed than other Tinybop apps. I found it to be more reactive than interactive, for example students could touch and see/learn about how air molecules react in heat or how hurricane force winds act but they are not able to create and control things as they can in other apps. I wish there were also numbers on the temperature gauge so students could learn at what temperature water freezes and when flowers will wilt. Like with other Tinybop apps, there is a nice handbook that goes with the app to provide prompting questions and added support for the development of weather vocabulary. I hope over time, the developers will add a way for students to do more experiments in the app and maybe document their findings with a built-in journal or lab book.

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