NOVA Elements

App review by
Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Media
NOVA Elements App Poster Image
Info-packed science app great for learning about elements.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about atoms, molecules, the periodic table of elements, and how the elements are used in everyday applications. They can build their own atoms by adding the correct number of protons, neutrons, and electrons to a diagram based on atomic number and weight. Kids also can build molecules by dragging atoms to the correct place on a ball-and-stick model. NOVA Elements provides a wealth of information through text and audio descriptions of the elements and through a video hosted by an entertaining narrator, David Pogue. 

Ease of Play

Instructions are clear and precise and the touchscreen features are very intuitive. Some prior knowledge of atoms and molecules is needed for optimal use of all the app's features. 


Kids can see bombs explode in videos about the elements.


A link to the iTunes store appears on the title page and on the Hunting the Elements video page. There's also a link to the PBS store within the app.    

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that NOVA Elements is a fun educational app that gets kids interested in the building blocks of matter. Kids can construct atoms and molecules using popular touchscreen features. In this way, the app engages kids in an interactive learning experience. A beautifully designed periodic table provides information about the elements at the tap of a finger, and the video chapters from the NOVA movie Hunting the Elements are easily accessible for kids who want to learn even more. Text and audio instructions are available for the activities, which can be useful for kids with varying learning styles.   

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What's it about?

When starting up the app, kids can choose from three options: "Watch Hunting the Elements," "Explore the Interactive Periodic Table," or "Play David Pogue's Essential Elements." While exploring the interactive periodic table, kids can tap on an element to read about, and build an atom of, the element. Some elements even include links to relevant video clips. In the Essential Elements game, different items and the molecules that make up the items are provided. The task is to choose an item and then build the atoms that make up the molecules of the item. Then, you build molecules using a drag-and-drop feature to correctly place the atoms. If you're wrong, you can try again. But you'd better hurry, because time may run out! Kids can see correct answers by tapping the Auto Build button.

Is it any good?

NOVA ELEMENTS is a great learning tool for kids who want to know about the elements. Building atoms and molecules gets kids engaged in the learning process, which is always a good thing. The information provided about the elements in the periodic table is somewhat basic, but it's interesting enough to encourage kids to keep tapping on the elements to learn more. The fun, easily accessible video chapters from Hunting the Elements make the app a well-rounded addition to any science-related digital-learning library. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Watch the video clips with kids and encourage discussion about how different elements are used in everyday life.

  • Find items around the house, particularly in the kitchen, and challenge kids to identify elements that make up the item.

App details

  • Devices: iPad, Windows app
  • Subjects: Science: chemistry, substance properties
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, memorization, thinking critically
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: January 22, 2013
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 121.20 MB
  • Publisher: PBS
  • Version: 1.3
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 3.2 or later
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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