Earth: A Primer is an educational app in development that creator Chaim Gingold describes as “a science book for playful people.” Instead of rote memorization, Earth: A Primer invites players to create and bring to life the very forces of nature they’re asked to learn about right before their eyes, making the process of learning geography far more interactive and fun than doing so from a traditional science textbook.
Gingold is currently a PhD student in play design who created an earlier version of this app in 2011 called “GeoBook.” After the app was nominated as an IndieCade 2011 finalist, Gingold renamed it Earth: A Primer (or Earth Primer for short).
The Earth Primer experience
Earth Primer caused an instant flashback to my science classrooms in high school and college. The more I played the game, the more “lightbulb” moments I experienced that I’m sure my former teachers planned for tirelessly but seldom saw. What’s so different about Earth Primer when compared to the average classroom textbook or instruction?
The app is highly interactive, as demonstrated here, and intuitive. Most people’s experience making a volcano entails spending several fretful hours with clay, cardboard and baking soda in preparation for their elementary school science fair. With Earth Primer, you can learn about why certain geographical features and environmental phenomenon exist and reconstruct them with the tap of a finger. Oh, and no clean-up is necessary afterwards.
The app includes five chapters that focus on Earth and its constituent parts. What makes the app and learning about our planet so much fun is that it allows users to recreate the Earth’s geographical and environmental formations and its functions. You can paint desserts with wind, form glaciers, manipulate the rise and fall of currents, and many other features that come alive right before your eyes in stunning detail.
Thanks to Earth Primer‘s interactive and educational nature, the app should easily find its way into science classrooms across the nation. That said, the app does not seek to replace either the teacher or the need for classroom instruction. Earth Primer does, however, offer the ability to facilitate learning in a new way for students. Where teachers struggle with differentiation (tailoring instruction to the needs of each specific student) due to time and the fact there is, on average, one teacher for every 30-40 students, Earth Primer can assist teachers by accommodating the unique learning needs of all students.
Most school districts have prioritized increasing technology in their classrooms, providing iPads and tablets for each student. In these environments, Earth Primer could compliment and assist a science instructor by allowing students to review vocabulary terms and scientific concepts at their own pace. The students who learn faster can move on to a more challenging chapter like Biomes while a struggling student can slow down and review the Water Cycle chapter or receive one-on-one help from the teacher.
The app’s interactive nature and its ability to respond to the needs of its users makes it great for every type of learner. Let’s face it, simply using textbooks and
chalkboard Smart Board technology risks losing a lot of potentially interested students.
Although Earth Primer is not limited to school-aged children, it definitely has a place in the science classroom. Gingold’s approach to the app and its step-by-step delivery of information makes it a practical and entertaining way of learning about our Earth.