Magic School Bus: OceansWe first grew to know the Magic School Bus when my children were in preschool through their lively PBS television show. The Magic School Bus books and television show help kids learn about science in a fun way - combining a story of crazy Ms. Frizzle, a teacher like no other, who takes her classes on field trips to see science up close, with clear scientific information. But I must say that at times I found the books too crowded and busy with information. It was hard to sit with young children and focus on particular text.
based on the book:
Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor
by Joanna Cole
illustrated by Bruce Degen
NY: Scholastic, 1994
ages 6 - 10
available at the iTunes app store
The Magic School Bus: Oceans app draws children in with its bright colors and interactive design. Even better, it breaks each page from the book into chunks, showing a small part of text at a time. Then the reader swipes her finger across the page to read the next chunk. You tap speech bubbles to hear/read what each child is saying. If you tap an animal with a label, a screen slides down and gives you more information, including a photograph or video of that animal. This interactive design keeps kids interested and engaged, while not overwhelming them.
The video below gives you a good sense of how this app works:
My first grader found the app easy to negotiate and engaging enough to want to come back to it several times. She liked the way you can skip to different chapters within the book, or to the games included with the app. I wish that there was an option to turn off the narration, but keep the sound effects. I would recommend this app for kids ages 6 - 10. Younger kids with experience using apps and an interest in oceans might find it interesting, but I think it's perfect for 1st through 3rd grade students.
Overall, this is a great way to share with children that iPad and iPod apps can be entertaining, engaging and educational - hey, the triple E effect! Here's hoping that Scholastic publishes more Magic School Bus apps!
Many thanks to Betsy Bird, of Fuse #8 and the NY Public Library, for her helpful thoughts on what makes a great app for kids' picture books. See her great article in School Library Journal: Planet App - Kids' book apps are everywhere, but are they any good? for more thoughts on reviewing kids' picture book apps.
The app was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thanks for your support!