While there isn't an app out there that can explain the meaning of life to you and your kids -- yet -- there are a number of touch-based educational offerings that explore all forms of life on our planet. Whether you have a toddler just beginning to learn the names of animals, a high schooler who wants to learn about the anatomy of a frog, or are curious yourself, there are many great biology, ecology and life sciences apps available. Here are five of the best:
WWF Together offers stunning wildlife images and useful information on species, habitat, environmental concerns and more to help paint a picture of the struggles that many wild animals face around the globe. Click on one of a dozen animals to learn facts and see additional photos. Major problems facing each species are also highlighted. Students may also click on an animated globe to learn about dozens of other wild animals facing habitat loss or related concerns.
(iOS, Android: Free)
This app teaches basic cell structures, with information provided through a 3-D environment for the different parts of plant, animal and bacterial cells. Being able to see these basic units of life and their components helps generate excitement about the wonders of science.
This app is truly an interactive textbook, with lots of pictures and easy-to-understand text that is accessible for all ages. Children can choose between six ecosystems to explore. They are presented with an encyclopedia-style entry that provides an overview. They can swipe through fun facts and gallery images and take a pop quiz. The quizzes are leveled and make connections to "Bloom's Taxonomy." There is even the option to watch hand-picked YouTube videos that show off each ecosystem.
Ansel & Clair's Adventures in Africa
In this app, Ansel (a travel photographer from another planet) and Claire (a brilliant robot) guide students through the Nile Valley, Sahara Desert and Serengeti Plains. As students travel around the three locales, they learn about the different animals of Africa. There are amazing graphics and fun games to play while the students also take photos and create a travel log.
Frogs have been a longtime model for understanding the function, position and relative size of organs, tissues and biological systems. This is an excellent use of touch-driven educational activity that also happens to be odorless and environmentally sensitive. This app could be used instead of a frog dissection lab or as a pre-lab preparation exercise. It gives students an appreciation for the layers of a frog's tissues in a systematic approach to anatomy and function. Students drive a scalpel or scissors with their fingertips, "lift" tissues or organs out of the way and spin organs around, all while the narrator explains what they are seeing on the screen.