December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

DNA Play | Touch and Go

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While genetics is a topic generally taught in secondary schools, a new app from Avokiddo introduces the concept of DNA, and mutability, to a younger audience.

Avokiddo’s DNA Play (iOS, $2.99, Android $2.99; PreS–Gr 3) takes a joyful approach to a science concept. Through a series of hands-on activities, children experiment with and manipulate the gene sequence of a creature, creating and altering its shape, limbs, and physical features. There’s no text, so no actual discussion of what DNA is, but notes for parents offer some basic information. As the developer states, the app “introduces kids to the concept of DNA and the magnificence of its mechanics through a fun to play interactive experience.”

On opening the app, users are greeted with music and a large play button that encourages them to dive into the content. (From the home screen they can also select a language; 11 are available.) On the maker screen, a one-eyed, three-toed figure stands alone, with colorful nucleotide shapes at its feet. Users then drag and drop the shapes into the gaps on the DNA strand at the top of the screen. Once six (two-piece) base pairs are complete, another part of the creature is added: head, face, eyes, arms, legs, or body. Bright colors and silly animations are the norm.

Creature created in DNA Play

Creature created in DNA Play (Avokiddo)

Children can switch the sequence of the base pairs and as they do so will see the creature’s body structure change, revealing how mutations can alter a figure, or life form. Tapping on the creature also triggers body changes.

Adding to the fun are opportunities to have the figures skateboard, dance, sleep, and eat (vegetarian-only option is available in the settings.) Astute appsters may notice that the skateboarders and dancers’ movements change with the length of their legs, etc. Creation options are nearly infinite and the play is engaging enough to entertain children for some time. Screen shots of the finished creatures can be saved.

While users might not realize that they are experimenting with nucleotide shapes and DNA strands, they are being introduced to the concept of mutability. A useful to supplement a science lesson.Krista Welz, North Bergen High School Media Center, NJ

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal’s dedicated app webpage.

 

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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