Bottom Line: Amazingly fun and comprehensive encyclopedia-style app with photos, videos, stories and more — all about bugs! Impress all your friends with amazing facts and information. Plus, I learned the larvae of beetles have an almond-like flavor. New dinner party dessert! Useful for preschoolers, but great for older kids and those with special needs as well.
Meet the Insects: Water and Grass Edition is the newest app offering from NCSOFT, and is the third in a series of amazing apps all about insects (the others are Forest Edition and Village Edition). It took me only a few minutes of interaction to know this was a special app.
It is a large app — currently fifth on my usage list at 569 MB. This is understandable, however, considering the vast amount of bug-related information it contains. There are pictures and videos, animated and interactive stories, and even an observation journal.
The interface is smooth and professional. It opens to a home screen with options of multimedia, Insect Story, Observation Journal, Quiz, and See the Insects. Each area contains an abundance of information, but the home screen itself is even fun — swipe to the left to view an interactive screen of each of the five orders. This is also accessible from the See the Insects section.
Tap each of the visible insects for a pop-up of fascinating information. Did you know that the backswimmer, in Order Hemiptera, is called the corpse bug in other countries, since it swims on its back? Or that the spotted darter, in Order Odonata, changes from yellow to red in autumn, when it is ready to mate?
The multimedia section features full-color photos and short video clips of insects. The Insect Story section tells an animated story in six parts — the life cycle, where and how they live, and some features about them.
The observation journal is also an excellent feature. It includes a page for each day, with the ability to add a title, photo, location, weather, mood, and note. This would be great to do as a family, or even cooperatively as a class journal.
Meet the Insects also includes two quizzes. One quiz shows three labeled photos and a statement — simply choose the correct picture to match the statement. Choose the insect that has hardened forewings, or the one which lives under a strict social system. Some of the questions are not exactly challenging — finding the mantis simply requires finding the picture labelled "Giant Asian Mantis."
The other quiz involves a statement such as "Agapanthea Long-Horned Beetle has hair that looks like the Buddhist monks wear." If the statement is correct, the user taps the "O," and if incorrect, taps the "X." This quiz is trickier, with no pictorial cues. Having more than one quiz is a great features and makes the app appealing to a much larger audience.
One of my favorite features is the insect search function on the home screen. Tap the magnifying glass in the top right corner, and a menu will pop up. Choose a type of insect by body type, then choose a color. All of the insects that fit into that category will be shown. If there is more information available about that insect in the app, tapping the plus will bring it right up.
Overall, there are some really strong features in this app. In addition to the great content, the text is all read, making it a very accessible app for learners of all levels. In fact, it is a particularly strong app for older kids with special needs — the content is not babyish, but is still accessible with visual and auditory content.
Speech-language pathologists will find it useful for teaching curriculum-focused vocabulary, and classroom teachers may find it indispensable for an insect unit. And, of course, parents and homeschoolers will find it invaluable. The information is accurate and in-depth, but the app is far from boring.
I could only find one small area of weakness in the whole app. Though there were not problems in the rest of the app, the grammar in the quiz section was sometimes weak, with phrasing like, "It flexibily turns its head to find preys," (Chinese Mantis) or, "It has big and fat body," (Bumblebee). Better editing of the quiz section would be easy enough to accomplish.
Though the app is higher-priced than most, the content is so complete and professional, I still find it to be a must-have app for teachers and parents of little science and nature lovers. It also is less expensive than a comparable book about insects, with the added bonus of videos and animation. This new Top Pick is highly recommended.
Heather does warn those with insect-squeamishness to steel themselves — the pictures are very realistic! But never fear — there are no spiders, as they are not insects. SmartAppsForKids.com was paid a priority review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.