Image: Beautiful Planet App
Banzai Labs
The photos and information in the Beautiful Planet app were three decades in the making by travel photographer and explorer, Peter Guttman.
updated 7/30/2012 9:09:35 AM ET 2012-07-30T13:09:35

For many kids, middle school is the first time they've gotten to tackle meaty, adult topics in class, whether it's biology or the Civil War. In that spirit, we've compiled a list of eight outstanding educational apps to give your middle school student some extra resources for the new school year.

Free for basic, $2.99 for ad-free, $4.99 for ad-free HD
Download: for iPhone and iPod touch, iPad
This app, derived from the website of the same name, gives students access to almost 1 million word definitions and 90,000 synonyms and antonyms in the app's thesaurus section. The app also gives the origin and history of words, as well as example sentences so kids can see how unfamiliar words are used. There's also a Word of the Day feature, which is just what it sounds like — one random new word pops up in the app each day. With any luck, your student will be speaking like a broadcaster by the time he or she is old enough to drive.

2. Presidents vs. Aliens
: 99 cents
Download: Presidents vs. Aliens for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
The title alone may be enough to snag the interest of many a middle-schooler, but Presidents vs. Aliens has solid educational value, too. Created by the developer of the award-winning Stack the States app for younger kids, Presidents vs. Aliens challenges kids to learn historical facts to help U.S. commanders-in-chief trounce a team of alien invaders. The app comes with 44 educational flash cards to help players brush up on their presidential knowledge.

3. Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential Graphic Novel
: $2.99
Download: Be Confident in Who You Are for iPad
Although it may not be educational in the grammar-and-algebra sense, this app's focus on hot-button middle school issues like bullying, family conflict, and changing friendships makes it worth checking out. The Be Confident in Who You Are app is a 49-page digital adaptation of the first book in the award-winning "Middle School Confidential" graphic novel series. Aimed at tweens and reluctant readers, the app incorporates music and sound effects to explore the unique challenges of being in middle school.

4. Paper by FiftyThree
Free with optional in-app purchases
Download: Paper by FiftyThree for iPad
For kids with an artistic bent, Paper by FiftyThree is definitely worth a look. It's a simple drawing app that starts you with a blank sheet of digital paper on your iPad. Your imagination's the limit with this no-frills app — your kids will find themselves sketching, drawing, and taking notes to their heart's content. And if ever they feel like expanding their horizons, you can always choose to buy them new tools in-app.

5. Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo & Juliet
Download: Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo & Juliet for iPad
Older middle-schoolers may be starting to tackle the Bard in English class. (If this sounds preposterous, consider that Romeo and Juliet were roughly the age of ... older middle-schoolers. Scary, isn’t it?) Reading Shakespeare is a tall order for anyone, but this multimedia study guide provides a foothold to understanding the action. Voiced by Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen, the app provides an animated recreation of each scene, accompanied by the corresponding text from the play. There are also notes, definitions, and study tools for each section.

6. World Book — This Day in History
99 cents for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad version; free for theiPad-only version
Download: World Book — This Day in History for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
If your middle school student prefers to learn in bite-sized pieces, check out World Book's This Day in History app. The app automatically displays a historical event for the current date; students can also search other dates for an extra dose of historical trivia. The iPad-only version of the app is free; a 99-cent version is available for iPhone or iPod touch.

7. Beautiful Planet HD: A Photographic Journey Around the World
: $1.99
Download: Beautiful Planet HD for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
For students delving into world history for the first time, Beautiful Planet HD could be a good companion to textbook-based learning. The award-winning app features 580 photographs from 160 countries and all seven continents. You can browse the photos using the app's interactive map. Each picture is accompanied by a brief description explaining the image’s cultural context.

8. GeoMaster
99 cents for basic, $1.99 for HD
Download: GeoMaster for iPhone and iPod touch, Geomaster Plus HD for iPad
Don't let your child become one of the high-schoolers who frequently appear in the news because surveys show they believe Alaska is part of the continental United States. This geography-based quiz game lets students polish their skills by locating cities and states throughout the United States. Internationally-minded players can learn to identify world capitals or the countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America.

More from Tecca:


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments