Some time ago I came across a card game while looking for STEM learning games. The game consists of cards with images of planets and space phenomena such as black holes and gravitational waves. When you downloaded an app onto your phone and looked at the cards through it, an image of the planet popped up on your phone screen.
It looked cool and I wanted to know more, so I got in touch with the people who make it – educational Technology company Peapodicity. They were super lovely and sent a pack to me to try out and review with the kids. The cards arrived quickly, packaged in a foil envelope that immediately had the kids hopping around with curiosity. The cards themselves are sturdy and well printed. We had a bit of a delay after receiving them before we could use them fully as the app wasn’t out on Android yet, but the boys enjoyed them as information cards without the app.
Then the day came when the free AugmentifyIt app was released for Android and we got to try the cards out as they were
intended to be used.
That is literally all any of us said as we held each card in front of the phone and watched almost 3D-looking planets rotating on screen, accompanied by a suitably epic soundtrack. None of my photos, or those on the company website for that matter, really do justice to just how cool these things look on screen.
Then “Look mummy, I’m holding a planet in my hand!”. The excitement in his voice was precious. It all turned to giggles when the next thing was “Look mummy, I’m eating it now, nom nom nom” accompanied by over exaggerated chomping.
Space is a recurring favourite topic of both the boys – we’re currently reading Dara O Briain’s excellent book ‘Beyond the Sky’ as a bedtime book. Having interesting books on the topic is always good, but despite being a family of book worms it’s rare to have that stunned ‘Wow!’ reaction to a new book, so it was great to find a new way to engage in this topic.
It is also fantastic to find that these cards tackled trickier concepts such as black holes, and really newly proved ideas such as gravitational waves. Physical contact was made with gravitational waves in 2015 using a large piece of experimental apparatus called LIGO, the scientists who achieved this feat just won Nobel Prizes just this year, so the card contain really cutting edge information as well as space age technology. I was a kid in the 80’s, I still find technology such as smart phones a bit magical, never mind Augmented Reality games such as Pokémon Go, which the kids just take for granted.
The cards have interesting facts about each planet and space phenomena printed on the back, then the game associated with the app allows you to answer quiz questions based on that information. We will definitely come back to that element of the cards, but to a large extent the boys are happy just gazing at each planet.
Our latest game with them is getting the kids to shuffle the pack and then lay out the cards in in order, using the mnemonic ‘my very educated mother just served us nine pizzas’ – I know Pluto doesn’t count any more, but it makes a nicer mnemonic than ‘my very educated mother just served us nothing’.
This is a game we’re going to get years of use out of as the uses for it will grow as the kids do.
Notes: I made initial contact with the Peapodicity because the game looked like a fab way to engage kids in Space science and they kindly sent us the cards to try for free. I’m a fairly recent convert to space as a topic, spending most of my life thinking it was all a bit dull and complicated and (for shame) not even knowing the order of the planets until well into my 20s. I’ve really rethought my stance on it in recent years due to the excitement the kids have about all things space related, so I’d love to promote and help people retain that feeling of wonder that kids have when they dream of being astronauts and exploring the galaxy. Seeing the moon through a really good telescope at Herstmonceux this year for the first time was a moment printed indelibly on my brain, and i think playing with these cards for the first time had a similar level of wonder for us.