Rough Science offers tutorials and related activities for three topics common in upper elementary and middle school science, including the layers of the earth, states of matter, and adaptation/evolution. Each introductory level tutorial is a fast-paced and fun lesson about the topic, hosted by Australian science educator Sean M. Elliott. Using simple props and visual high jinx, Elliott puts these science concepts into contexts that are easily understood by young students. Following the demonstrations, each topic concludes with a hands-on activity suggestion and the results can be saved in pictorial form to create a sort of “lab notebook” that the student can access again and again.
Entertaining video tutorials featuring demonstrations
Three topics commonly covered in late elementary/middle school
Hands-on activity suggestions to reinforce concepts
Science notebook for later reference
Free companion teacher guide
Rough Science is a well-designed app that will capture and hold the attention of most middle grade students. The presentations for each of the three included topics are clear, fast-paced, and funny, and the follow-up activities are easy to implement. The app works as expected and is easy to use, with clear, concise directions and helpful icons.
Rough Science offers brief tutorial videos on each of the three middle grades science topics. The videos are engaging and fun, but very basic in terms of their information. Students in middle school may find them too basic, and it would be nice if each topic were expanded into more depth, perhaps using additional video lessons. The challenges are also quite basic. For example, the challenge for the layers of the earth is to draw a diagram of the earth, take a picture with the iPad’s camera, and label the parts of the diagram by dragging names to the correct layers in the picture. Developers missed an opportunity to tap into higher order thinking skills by providing a place to answer thought-provoking questions such as “Why would the earth’s inner core be solid at such high temperatures” (answered in the video) or “How deep would a mine need to be dug to tap into the mantle” (requiring a bit of research). Offering a selection of exercises at varying depths of knowledge and skills would really enhance this app’s educational value.
It also seems like a strange combination of topics. The three subjects are not typically taught in proximity to one another. While the app has a good execution of a good idea, it could be far more useful if the three topics built on one another in some fashion. That would leave lots of room for adding other titles to the series, as well.
One helpful feature is the ability to email a pdf copy of the lab notebook (the “Rough Book”) to teacher or parent. In this way, students could present their work for evaluation or monitoring. This feature will allow multiple students to use the app in turn and turn in their assignments for a teacher to check.
Rough Science is highly entertaining in several ways. The videos have a style, comedy and flair to them that will appeal to the target age group. Each makes good use of the presenter’s humor and props. The challenges associated with each topic are also engaging. Users are expected to use the iPad’s camera to photograph proof of their efforts or findings, then can email the completed lab notebook as a pdf file.
This is a free app, apparently intended as a sample of more in-depth titles from these developers. As such, it is a good value, though there is not much replay value to the system. Instead, consider this app for multiple users; it’s ideal for homeschooling families or classroom settings.
Rough Science has no outside advertisements, links to social media, or in-app purchases. There are no direct connections to the internet. It is possible for young users to download the teacher’s guide from iTunes, but it’s free and users need to enter the iTunes password. It is possible for users to access email through this app after completing all three challenges. Hitting the “Submit” button opens an email to send the completed pdf file “Rough Book” containing the student’s responses to the challenges.
Rough Science provides basic introductory information about layers of the earth, states of matter, and adaptation/evolution in the form of a video tutorial and a hands-on challenge that reinforces a simple concept from the video.