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Review: Nature Apps

Review by Joy Chi

Illustration by Eva Heaps

Note: The following article is a collection of reviews of smartphones apps that serve to help children and adults alike to connect with nature.


By PlantSnap, Inc. 

PlantSnap is a multi-functional app that is well-crafted for children and adults alike. The five tabs on the bottom – “Community”, “Explore”, “Snap”, “Search”, and “More” – each boasts its own useful section. “Community” allows users to comment, like, and see photos of other plants. I especially like how clicking on others’ “posts” allows me to see pictures of the plants, discussions on how to grow the plants, and issues I may find with the plants. The discussions even include warnings, such as “Toxic to Dogs.” The “Explore” tab finds spaces that feature the natural environment. For example, the app used my location to find the Morton Arboretum and Cantigny Park as spaces nearby for me to enjoy nature. The tab also lists the contact information for various parks. This feature is perfect for exploring natural spaces and getting more in touch with the natural world. Even more so, the interactive “Snap” tab allows you to take a picture of a plant and walks you through how to properly care for a plant, while the “Search” tab allows you to type different names, such as various plants or other users that utilize the app. You can then befriend your friends on the app or continue learning more about various plants. Last, the “More” tab is an easy-to-access hub that allows users to share posts of nature and what children have collected in the natural world. Overall, this stunning app is kid-friendly and extremely simple. Uniquely created, fun, and interactive, PlantSnap helps users take time in nature and discover new places to enjoy plants and the world around us. 

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WWF Together 

By World Wildlife Fund 

Extremely interactive for technology users and bustling with exciting information, WWF Together is perfect for allowing children and youth to explore nature existing in locations that are likely to be inaccessible to the user. Upon downloading the app, users can learn about a multitude of animals, sixteen in total, including dolphins, elephants, and sea turtles. Upon selecting one, users find a description of the animal and several different types of interactions. For example, there is a spinnable globe highlighting regions where the animal lives, a command to “tilt the phone” to take users deeper into the ocean. There is even a 360-degree tilt feature that allows users to explore the environment where the animal resides. I love how there is a picture feature that displays colorful images of the animal and by scrolling down, continues to fill my phone screen with more pictures of different species. In addition, the app is jam-packed with information, about threats to the animals (such as habitat loss or illegal trade), about their extinction risk on a scale, and about different actions, WWF is taking to protect these creatures. In an even more creative twist, the app features an origami section, where children and youth can learn how to fold origami of the animal they are learning about. Beautifully crafted and timely, WWF is well done, visually amazing, and great for allowing children and youth to explore areas of the natural world they are not likely to be able to visit. 

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Nature Passport 

By IslandWood 

This beautifully simple and child-friendly app prompts creative play through innovative nature-based games, arts and crafts, and simple experiments, all to inspire children to spend time outdoors. At the “home” screen, children have the option to “journal,” “engage in activities,” or click on “safari.” The “journal” option holds a portfolio of badges that children can earn through doing arts and crafts, exploring their backyards, and finishing activities related to their exploring. The key to earning a badge is through the “Activities” tab. There are several options for activities, ranging from “Challenger,” — full of action and challenges with fellow friends, to “Mission Mud,” where children are able to make mudslides and investigate swamps. There are even activities tailored for rainy days and when at the beach. Each activity completed gives the child a virtual badge. Next, the simple Safari section allows children to “add a sighting” of a photograph of various animals, plants, or fungi. After “adding a sighting,” children can take notes about what they noticed or what they think the animal, plant, or fungi is doing, and then they can play the role of naturalist by giving the animal, plant, or fungi a name. Overall, Nature Passport encourages children to become active learners in and about the natural world. 

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