February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

What Do a Bat and Kangaroo Have in Common? | Find Out in Tinybop’s “Mammals”

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Teachers and parents looking for hands-on STEM tools and toys will find a host of interactive resources in Tinybop Inc’s apps. The developer recently added a ninth app to their “Explorer’s Library” sandbox adventures. The artist, Wenjia Tang, an undergraduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) answered a few questions about her art and inspirations in an interview. Deborah Whitbeck reviews the app below.


Screen from Mammals (Tinybop) illus. by Wenjia Tang

Screen from Mammals (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Wenjia Tang

Using the interactive Mammals (Tinybop Inc. iOS, $2.99; PreK-Gr 2) viewers can explore the attributes of an African elephant, a Bengal tiger, a brown bat, a sloth, and a red kangaroo. Options allow for a look inside each creature’s skeletal, muscular, nervous circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems, and for two of the animals, their urogenital systems.

While exploring the digestive system of each mammal viewers experiment with menu options to determine the foods each animal prefers. (The elephant rejects meat but consumes vegetation, while a tiger has an appetite for meat and rebuffs vegetation, etc.) Herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores are represented in the group, and astute observers may notice that the stomachs differ. Food intake eventually produces waste, which young viewers will no doubt delight in causing to happen. Urogenital systems depict an elephant fetus and a kangaroo’s joey nursing.

Kids can also explore the animals’ unique traits: the bat employs echolocation to determine what is flying within its range; the tiger has retractable claws, and so on. Other features allow viewers to investigate how each creature sees, to stage a race between two mammals to compare speeds, to find out how animals react to tickles or stings, and to examine fur up close. A look at a skeletal system depicts how it hold ups different body parts, but with a tap to the screen viewers can disassemble it and put it back together again.

Both the app’s visuals and animations are excellent. The audio provides minimal sound effects such as chewing or running. There is no text, but labels in five languages are available. The free, online handbook (available in eight languages) is a useful tool for adults to prompt discussions with kids about their observations and contains a wealth of additional information on each animal. VERDICT A fabulous tool to engage kids in the sciences that’s both engaging and easy to navigate.—Debbie Whitbeck, formerly of West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Screen from Mammals (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Wenjia Tang

Screen from Mammals (Tinybop, Inc.) illus. by Wenjia Tang

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

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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