DNA Play

Avokiddo. 2015. iOS, requires 6.0 or later. Version 1.0.4. $2.99. Android, requires 2.3.3 or later. Version 1.0.3. $2.99.
PreS-Gr 3—A joyful approach to a science concept. Through a series of hands-on activities, children experiment with and manipulate the gene sequence of an imaginary creature, creating and altering its shape, its limbs, and some of its physical features. There's no text, so no actual discussion of what DNA is, but notes for parents offer some basic information on the topic. As the developer notes, 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 software, users are greeted with cheery 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. To proceed, viewers must 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. Children can switch the sequence of the base pairs and in doing so will see the figure's body structure change, revealing how mutations can alter a figure, or life form. Tapping on the creature also triggers changes.Adding to the fun are opportunities to have the figures skateboard, dance, sleep, and eat (a 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. Creation options are nearly infinite, and the play is engaging enough to entertain children for some time. Screen shots of the finished figures 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 resource to supplement a science lesson.—Krista Welz, North Bergen High School Media Center, NJ

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