Best Nature Apps

Best Nature Apps

Some of the most interesting educational apps ask students to explore and study the world outside the classroom. These five apps will inspire you to take an outdoor study break for further analysis.

Leafsnap for iPad (Free)

Leafsnap nurtures an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of one segment of our living environment. It helps take what is a blur of green — where all trees look the same — and begins to teach the dramatic differentiated characteristics between species. You’ll find you have to make the final judgement of what type of tree you’re identifying, and you’ll be compelled to use observations of other characteristics beyond just the leaf shape. This is an authentic activity as well; as you identify trees, your trees become a part of public record. As a citizen scientist, you’ll be contributing to a national graphic information system of data about the range and distribution of tree species.

(Curated by Gordon Shupe)

Project Noah (Android Free)

Project Noah is a mobile app that is part of an international science and nature project where students go out into the environment to explore and learn. The app lets students upload and share their findings with others. The project’s website has a special teachers’ section and educational material to use in conjunction with the mobile app and missions. This app makes the outdoors your classroom. It also rewards students with rewards (patches) and allows them to see their contributions in the app and online.

(Curated by Larry Sullivan)

Stellarium Mobile Sky Map (Android $2.58)

Stellarium is a planetarium app, letting you to view all the celestial objects in the night sky. Users can manually navigate the cosmos by swiping around the screen, or use the accelerometer so that the stars are displayed. The app offers quite a few features including options to view constellation artwork, altitude and azimuth grids, planets, nebulas and other night sky objects. Another great feature is the ability to adjust the time into the past or future by using the built-in controls, or by swiping across the screen. This is an excellent option because it lets students observe the apparent motions of the sun, moon and stars over time.

(Curated by Michael Sammartano)

Ecosystems HD (iPad $2.99)

Children can choose between six ecosystems to explore. They are presented with an encyclopedia-style entry that provides and overview of the ecosystem. They can swipe through fun facts and gallery images and take a pop quiz. The quizzes are leveled and make connections to Bloom’s Taxonomy. There is even the option to watch handpicked YouTube videos that show off each ecosystem.

(Curated by Monica Burns)

Vernier Video Physics (iPhone $4.99)

Vernier Video Physics is an award-winning app that allows you to capture video of any object in motion (a swinging pendulum, basketball free throw, etc.) and then slow that video down to analyze the motion frame by frame. The data will then be automatically plotted on a variety of graphs which demonstrate concepts like velocity and acceleration. Being able to easily create and analyze video opens up students’ eyes to the motions that are occurring around them all the time. They will think of motion differently after analyzing it in such detail. All data captured in the app can be easily shared with other Vernier programs including Logger Pro and Graphical Analysis.

(Curated by Michael Sammartano)

(This content was originally posted at

About Stephen Danos

Stephen Danos is the Associate Editor for and Appolicious. He has contributed to articles published on TechCrunchThe Chicago Sun TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. He received his BA in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming).



PreviousWSJ: Amazon is Testing a Delivery Service of Its Own NextShelly Palmer Radio Report - April 25, 2014

Get Briefed Every Day!

Subscribe to my daily newsletter featuring current events and the top stories in technology, media, and marketing.