Earth Primer

App review by
Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Media
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Interactive textbook powerful tool, but pricey.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational value

Kids can learn about Earth's interior, its surface, the water cycle, biomes, plate tectonics, and weather. By swiping through pages, kids go on a virtual tour to explore the many features about Earth that make it so fascinating. The interactive features allow kids to be hands-on and visualize the content. For example, in the chapter about Earth's surface, kids tap to make rain fall over a mountain, simulating the erosion of the mountain over thousands of years. Some of the content is lacking detail since the graphics are the real focus. The interactive features are excellent, but many of them would be even better if the resulting animations were slower so students had time to process what’s happening. It also would be great to see an assessment or a review feature added as a free update. Earth Primer is an especially handy tool for kids who are resistant to reading about geology or those who can't get enough of learning about our planet.

Ease of play

Many of the interactive features come with a tutorial. It takes a little while to figure out how to navigate through the chapters.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Earth Primer is an interactive textbook about Earth. Kids can swipe through the pages and interact with most graphics to learn about our planet, exploring features such as volcanoes, sand dunes, mountains, and much more. There's even a Sandbox mode where kids can use tools they've unlocked to create and shape their own landscapes. The price tag is steep, so it'll likely be most useful if your kid needs a push to get engaged in geology or already loves it.

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What's it about?

EARTH PRIMER has five chapters: Earth's Interior, Surface, Water Cycle, Biomes, and Sandbox. Each chapter is organized into content areas, or mini-lessons, that focus on a particular concept. For example, Earth's Interior includes mini-lessons about Earth's core, the mantle, volcanoes, rifts, the crust, and plate tectonics. With the exception of Sandbox, all previous chapters must be completed before unlocking the next one. Once kids finish the first chapter and the tutorial for the second chapter, Sandbox mode is unlocked. Then, additional tools are accessible as kids continue to finish chapters.

Is it any good?

Earth Primer brings textbooks to a new level with its interactive features and innovative Sandbox mode. Kids can virtually explore a variety of Earth's features and visualize the effect of certain actions such as rain and weathering. The resource is a useful, hands-on learning tool and could work well as instructional support. However, some of the content lacks detail, and many of the animations are too fast: Some kids may have a hard time following them. Also, at the current price point, it's surprising there isn't an assessment tool.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the surface features they've directly observed, such as mountains and valleys. How did they form?

  • Work with kids to make a three-dimensional model of a volcano using clay, paint, vinegar, and baking soda. Discuss limitations of the three-dimensional model and the model in the app.

  • Have kids make an illustrated glossary of terms they learned.

App details

  • Devices: iPad, Mac
  • Subjects: Science: geology, weather
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, asking questions, investigation, memorization
    Self-Direction: academic development
  • Price: $9.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Release date: February 24, 2015
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 166.00 MB
  • Publisher: Chaim Gingold
  • Version: 1.0.2
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 7.0 or later

For kids who love science

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