Find more Physical Science apps suggested by our growing community of teachers and parents.
About the Apps
To have any chance of success, physical science apps need to teach often highly technical concepts in ways that are interactive, accessible, inspiring, and fun. Many physical science apps that target elementary school students are strong in either educational value or engagement. There is a short list of apps that do both well.
It’s one thing for an app to provide extensive information about every element listed in the Periodic Table. It’s another to sing them all in a 3-minute interactive show tune. This is how you enter The Elements: A Visual Exploration, the best (albeit most pricey) physical science app available for this age group.
Once you get through the inspired 1959 recording of “The Elements Song” (which can also be skipped), the app will dazzle you and your kid with 3-D, virtual reality depictions of each element. There are also two page backstories of every element, with data provided by Wolfram Alpha (the same company that helps power Apple's Siri Office Assistant). While there are dozens of apps that have similar information, none are presented in a way that will keep your kid coming back and wishing there were more elements to master like this one.
The best bang for your buck (er, 99 cents) in this category is Monster Physics. Developed by Dan Russell-Pinson, the genius behind the Stack the States geography app. Monster Physics starts with a quick and accessible glossary that teaches concepts like gravity, mass, and velocity. Whereas many intro to physics apps stop there, Monster Physics incorporates all of these concepts within, appropriately, a physics game.
While Monster Physics is a great introductory app, older students getting ready for middle school will be challenged and entertained (if not literally enlightened) by Bobo Explores Light. After an inventive tutorial that teaches kids how to capture and create light, the app embarks on a series interactive experiments throughout more than 100 pages of interactive content.
Outer space is not the final educational frontier on the iPad, although it is where kids can incorporate the technical concepts they are learning in all their celestial glory. The two space apps we recommend for this age group are Junior Astronaut (which presents all the physical and historical challenges that were overcome to launch human beings into another stratosphere) and Solar Walk (an interactive and 3-Dimensional guide to all of the planets in our solar system.) Fittingly, Solar Walk is universal, so it will work on your iPhone as well.
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Apps are scored using a proprietary evaluation rubric to judge Educational Content, Kid Appeal, Assessment, Features and Design, Value, and Safety and Privacy.