It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and what better way to celebrate than to focus on how important STEM education is? Well, how about a review of a fun science app and a giveaway for a cute and cool STEM education project?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and I think parents should be doing whatever they can to support and encourage teachers as they incorporate STEM into their curricula. Parents and educators alike also need to start exposing STEM concepts to children at the earliest possible age.
Growing up I hated science and math(s) and dropped those subjects from my studies at the earliest possible opportunity. I regret that now, not only because it was something I could be good at (I won a chemistry prize when I was 14 for the best score in my year-end exams and got sent on a week-long soil science course for kids at Warwick University) but also because I find science and technology fascinating. Women are notoriously under-represented in STEM professions so I believe it is especially important to encourage and support our girls’ interests in these areas.
One of the ways we can spark or foster curiosity about STEM in our children is to increase the science and math-related content of things they already have an interest in. Just a few examples:
- Books. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love books and my kids are just the same. Look for books like Science Verse or Math Curse that are fun to read (and sing) together. Roll with your kids’ existing interests – like any good Canadian, Oliver is fascinated with snow, so I’m planning on getting The Story of Snow for us to go through together.
- Apps. If your children are fond of book apps then consider ones like The Book of Holes, The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, Stop Math, Bobo Explores Light and Axel’s Chain Reaction. In terms of non-book apps there are SO many options but ones that are a must-look include DragonBox, Monster Physics (all the Freecloud Design apps are worthwhile getting actually), The Human Body by Tinybop and Todo Telling Time.
- Games. Yes, Minecraft of course but think bigger! Any game that teaches concepts like collaboration, cause and effect, pattern recognition and following directions are helping kids develop skills that are a foundation for STEM. Hits in our home include Honey Bee Tree, mosaics like Sort and Snap Colour Match (we take turns) and The Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! game (we have a home made version but this one is on my wish list).
- Toys and activities. Yes, Lego but again, think bigger! How about Roominate? – you can build your own *wired* dolls house! Or just go on Pinterest and search for ideas for activities that are dirt cheap or even free. Oliver and I have made our own lava lamps, coloured fizzy snow, playdough and more.
Anyway, those are just some thoughts that hopefully start you salivating about STEM education. The main course of this post is an app review and for dessert I have a giveaway, so be sure to read on.
Summary – is Brain Jump worth buying?
The Pro (full) version is $2.99 and I think it’s worth the price. There’s lots of content so consider it if:
- You want your child to learn some basic neuroscience, especially the concept of neuroplasticity.
- You’re looking for fun, engaging and challenging brain activities for kids that go beyond the usual pair matching and spot the difference games.
If you’re unsure about whether to buy this app, download the free, lite version and see what you think.
How does Brain Jump work?
We were first introduced to Ned the Neuron in the book app of that name by Kizoom. He’s our guide through this app which is designed to both teach children about the concept of neuroplasticity and to encourage them to engage in activities that enhance it.
The app consists of two animated shorts – one is a story in which Ned discovers that the brain he’s part of is losing power. In order to avoid a catastrophe he encourages kids to join him in playing some games which will get the neurons in his brain firing again.
The second mini-movie is an explanation of how brains develop and therefore how we acquire new skills as well as maintain or expand our skill set.
These two movies can be accessed at any time from the ‘Explore the Brain’ section of the menu screen. This is also where you can choose which of the three brain activity games you want to play, mute sound if you prefer and check out which badges you have won during game play.
From the front screen of the app, there is a section for Parents which uses a simple math problem as a gate. From here parents and educators can find out further information about the app and its developer Kizoom.
The three games take place in a submarine, space and at a magical, medieval-looking tournament. The submarine game (Think Tank) focuses on memory – cartoon pictures of neurons flash in the submarine’s portholes and the child has to tap on the correct spots indicating where the neurons were. A correct answer results in the submarine descending; make a mistake and it pops back up. Enough correct responses in a row and the submarine reaches the ocean floor and grabs some treasure. The other two games follow a similar format (correct responses move the player forward, incorrect moves put them back) but are set in different contexts and require your child to use different skills. In the space game (Neurons in Space) players work on pattern recognition skills as they attempt to match the firing patterns of the rockets on the screen. At the magical tournament (Wizard Match) they need to replicate sequences in an exact fashion.
Each game gets progressively more challenging and has many levels of difficulty – 54 in total.
What I like about Brain Jump
- The graphics and animation are all high quality.
- The animated shorts are fun and nicely narrated.
- The music is hard to categorize but I found it perky, fun and not at all irritating.
- I love the message that making mistakes is an intrinsic part of how we learn – it’s emphasized more than once that making mistakes and taking risks is how we (and our brains) grow.
- The games are easy to pick up but quickly become challenging to play. The variables change at each level which keeps the game play feeling fresh.
- The use of visual cues to present information:
Recommendations for Kizoom to consider in future updates
This is a fun, high quality and good value app but as usual I do have some ideas for the developer to consider:
- One of the main recommendations I had was actually taken care of in an update – the use of visual cues to convey information has been added and is well done. However, the audio instructions have been removed. Personally I prefer to have both audio and visual cues as they support and reinforce each other.
- The games as they stand are designed for children in the 6-10 age range but they are far too hard for my 8 year-olds to play currently – I would love to see options in the Parents section so adults could set the difficulty levels of the games thereby aligning them with the developmental stage a child is at.
- Educators and those of us with more than one child love it when apps have the capacity to track more than one player so that would be a terrific feature to add.
- Subtitles in the animated shorts. Certain words do pop up on the screen for added emphasis but I’d like to see Kizoom add subtitles or captioning so that the information presented is more easily absorbed by children who are either deaf or have audio processing challenges.
At this point I’d like to give a shout out to a blog I recently discovered – Rethink Pink. In addition to her blog, Emma maintains an online catalogue of ideas for toys, books, clothes and other items that you can buy if you’re interested in products that don’t reinforce gender stereotypes.
I found Toysmith toys in her catalogue and decided to giveaway a robot kit of your choosing worth C$22 (or local equivalent) or less. I like the look of the tin can robot myself but there are lots to choose from like the doodling robot, robot duck and more.
You are eligible to enter provided I can purchase a suitable kit from the Amazon store in your location. So if you would like to try and win a cool STEM education robot kit which would be a perfect family activity or even class project, enter the giveaway via rafflecopter:
*disclosure* I received a promotional code in order to be able to review the Pro version of this app together with a small fee for my time in writing the review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.