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New Mobile App From Science NetLinks Helps Children Organize Life’s Diversity

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Science NetLinks

A mobile app from AAAS that helps children learn to sort living things into different groups has been selected by Apple as a "Best New App."

Classify It! , available for free from both the iTunes App Store and Google Play, was created by Science NetLinks, a K-12 STEM education program produced by AAAS and funded by the Verizon Foundation.

"The ability to group organisms in multiple ways based on observed similarities and differences is one of the building blocks of biology and life science education. Classify It! teaches kids about the diversity of life through engaging game play," said Suzanne Thurston, AAAS project director.

Classify It! players identify which of the game's 70 organisms, including a polar bear, broccoli, and an amoeba, fit into groups such as living things that lay eggs, use sunlight to make their own food, and build nests. Those who successfully classify the organisms advance through 30 levels and earn creature cards with pictures and facts about some of the different organisms featured in the game. Players can also earn additional cards in bonus rounds.

"This app was an incredible undertaking, and being recognized by Apple only a day after the launch is a tremendous accomplishment for everyone involved," Thurston said.

Developing the matrix of organisms was one of the challenging parts of creating the game, Thurston said. Daniel "Tim" Gerber, a biology professor at University of Wisconsin - La Crosse and a AAAS member, worked with Science NetLinks staff to develop the categories and sort the organisms. When he started to evaluate the organisms selected for inclusion in the game, Gerber noticed that there was a heavy emphasis on vertebrates.

"Deciding on which organisms to include is always a challenge," Gerber said. "I thought it would be appropriate to include some additional groups of organisms since there were few plants and protists included and no fungi, bacteria, or archaea."

The app runs on both iOS and Android devices and it is appropriate for upper level elementary school and middle school age children, who can play it as a stand-alone game and as a complement to in-class instruction.