Social Studies Apps

I have an iPad, courtesy of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, that I am using to explore its educational potential.

So far, the top picks from the pre-K and fifth grader in my life have been geography and social studies oriented:

Stack the States

Stack the Countries

       
images from the Apple iTunes store

 

Both teach recognition of states and countries based on shapes, capitals, major landmarks, official birds / trees / flowers, flags, and even contiguous nations. For example, a question might ask “which state shares a border with Canada?” and the player has four choices. “Stack the Countries” asks which continent a country is on, and there’s a game where players must drag-n-drop every country on a continent, going only by the shape, to its correct location in a map.

When a four year old can correctly place all of the countries in Africa and tell you which continent hosts the statues of Easter Island (and I’ve seen it), there may be something to an app! Both apps work on the iPhone as well, although the bigger screen is better for some included games.

I especially like how quickly the app updates to keep up with political changes. When South Sudan became an independent state in July 2011, “Stack the Countries” adjusted accordingly—and both of my boys who play the game noticed!

On the fun end, when a child selects the correct answer, that piece becomes available to stack. Put Russia on top of Luxembourg and, well, everything may well topple over the edge—there’s a little physics involved, you see! All of the country/state “pieces” are colorful and wear cartoon grins that turn to open-mouthed horror when a stack topples. The scale is sometimes interesting, as Chile resembles an extremely long green spear of asparagus, slightly out of proportion.

Once a stack reaches a certain height, the player wins a new state or country. The goal for “Stack the States” is to collect all 50, while “Stack the Countries” allows children to collect every nation in the world. My youngest has played “Stack the States” through the end 7 different times with 7 different user names, and I believe he has three user names for Stack the Countries.

As far as long-term retention of the information contained in the games, I’m not sure. The pre-K child still knows that Myanmar is in Asia and China is huge and the Taj Mahal is in India, at least.

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