MarcoPolo Arctic is the newest app in MarcoPolo Learning, Inc.’s outstanding children’s discovery series. Kids can explore this unique environmental biosphere in exquisite color, detail, and content. The bar does not get set higher than this for this app’s scope and sheer beauty of execution. Included are arctic animals from the land, birds that fly in the open sky, and mammals from the sea. There are over 30 animals to learn about, and that will keep kids busy and coming back for repeated play. It was developed for children 5 and under, but the app will appeal to those of almost any age. There are two modes of play: puzzles and an open experimentation mode within the different arctic environments. Within the app, there is a top banner for selecting puzzles, and a bottom banner that offers animals, food, and toys to set within the landscape for free play. In puzzles, kids place pieces to an outline to make an animal, sea mammal, or bird. During construction, they learn correct terminology and facts about that animal and in which of the three different arctic environments – the tundra, taiga, and ocean they live. I have to admit not knowing what the taiga was and found it to be referencing the subarctic forests. Taiga is the Russian word for forest, and the taiga biome is the largest in the world. Winters are cold and all precipitation is from snowfall, although summers may be warm and rainy. Each of the animals created by the puzzles is accompanied with facts and short animations to keep kids cognitively engaged by tapping into their visual, auditory and movement systems. Language is direct and matter of fact. Every kid who had a chance to play sat spellbound, as if the narrator was speaking directly to them. The pacing and sequencing of the material are synched perfectly in layers or chunks of information that is delivered for easy assimilation.
The open play landscape lends itself to direct application of the learned material. A favorite is a truck that transforms into a sea vehicle to explore both land and ocean. The open play space is alive, and kids can play with what animals like to eat, what they do, and where they like to live. Hmm….a seal is OK on land and in the sea? Lessons on learning about adaptability and being flexible are valuable life lessons or discussions points inherent in the play and based on what is happening directly in front of kids while playing. By adding animals, birds, or sea mammals to the landscape, there is the opportunity to test or directly apply what you have learned. Why won’t the whale eat the steak? Why is that musk ox so big if he only eats grass or flowers? Is she/he just a picky eater or do they need a different food to survive, and why? Answers to the questions that are originated by that three-letter word of preschoolers everywhere are tucked in neatly, and something that can be explored later during off-screen playtime. Animal manipulatives are pretty inexpensive and can be used in sensory bins for exploration to extend the play. There’s nothing like a batch
of cold blue Jello where a pod whales or seals are hiding, and it's up to a super scientist to find them all. Matching, sorting, and coloring pictures are all simple ways to extend the play.
MarcoPolo Arctic is a TWA Top Pick for its ability to engage kids in the phenomenal world around them. Open apps such as these quickly become favorites, and there are infinite possibilities for extending the play. Curiosity, that is reinforced makes for life-long learners, and kids that grow up to make a difference. Check out MarcoPolo Arctic and their other apps, MarcoPolo Weather and MarcoPolo Ocean. Gomarcopolo.com has a fabulous video for a peek inside this elegant app.
Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of Sepa, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing on Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. She has used technology in treatments for the last 20 years and began using mobile technology in home-based treatments approximately 4-5 years ago. In attempts to use technology with children responsibly, she found that doing an activity analysis on apps helped to clarify what goals could be achieved through using a particular app. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps have been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.