Marketing spoils otherwise enjoyable Science Fun To Go Android app

by Caitlin M. Foyt

Science Fun To Go is a clever, educational app for the Android platform that has been designed with child readers in mind. With its up-to-date, yet kid-friendly science news, goofy jokes and e-book reader, it has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, content volume and a design flaw might affect the length of your child's attention span.

To start, the app is very easy to navigate. Anyone, whether they're five years-old or 75 years-old, will easily pick up where everything in this app goes. There are five tabs along the top of the screen that can be clicked in order to access corresponding content. These tabs are titled "Blog," "Jokes," "Books," "My Books" and "More."

The "Blog" tab will take you to a news feed of updates written by award-winning children's science author Seymour Simon. The blog looks as though it's updated fairly frequently, once every couple of days, and features content that is relevant to current events. The posts are detailed, but easy to understand as everything in the app seems to be written at about a fourth-grade reading level.

Some of the more current posts included information about upcoming meteor showers (what time to look up, and what it means) and some interesting tidbits about gorilla conservation efforts.

Simon also appears to post some of his own photos and observations, for instance a bird in a bird bath and his thoughts on a dog trying to shake himself dry, and has a regular "Cool Animal Photo of the Week" post. Based on how much I liked reading Zoobooks at the doctors office, I know that this is the kind of thing I personally would have loved as a kid.

The "Joke" tab is filled with wholesome, illustrated funnies, similar to the kind of wisecracks you'd find on a popsicle stick or a candy wrapper. For instance, one riddle begs the question, "How do you catch a gorilla?" Answer: "Stand behind a tree and make a noise like a banana." They're clean and corny, and a lot of kids will probably get a kick out of them. These, too, are presented in a list-like feed, just like the blog, in which you click on a post to read it. After you've read the joke, click on the screen to learn the answer.

My complaint with the "Blog" and "Jokes" tabs, and really the app as a whole, is that pictures and text throughout are all very small. I realize that this isn't entirely the developer's fault, as it is pretty difficult to make these things large on a phone, but I think this app would be more successful in engaging a child, or children (some people have more than one, but only one phone), if they can have full understanding of what is happening on the screen at any point.

Another complaint is that this app feels more like a marketing tool for Seymour Simon's body of work than a real, practical educational tool for children. There's a list of videos listed under the "More" tab, but they are mostly trailers for other examples of Simon's work. Also, a huge part of the app is dedicated exclusively to downloading Simon's books (via the "Books" tab), and reading them within the app (under the "My Books" tab.) This e-book reader is restricted only to Simon's books.

Science Fun To Go also isn't a very groundbreaking idea. It's similar to the fun activities you'll find in elementary school classrooms or the interactive games you played as a child while at museums. But, there's nothing really new here. Because it's free, though, it's worth checking out.

This app does have some fun stuff – the blog, the jokes and even a learning quiz (under the "More" tab) in which the app debunks common myths by asking questions like, "Do cats really have nine lives?" But, there isn't enough content to keep kids engaged for very long. A science-y magazine geared toward children would probably do a much better job of getting you a little peace and quiet time.