Hoopa City

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App Name:  Hoopa City

Developer:  Dr. Panda Ltd.

Price: $3.99

Recommended Age: 4-8

Description:  Hoopa City is a sandbox style app providing open-ended play and interactivity.  There are no directions and the app encourages creativity, imagination, and exploration as users begin with a grassy field upon which they can create a city.  Building tools are gradually added across the top of the screen and users discover possibilities as they combine the various building tools in order to create different buildings and features for their cities.  There is a lightbulb icon, and when tapped it shows the combinations users have created thus far.  There is an option for multiple user accounts, and the game saves automatically so that children can continue working in the same city.  There is also a sequel to the game, Hoopa City 2.

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Skills: creativity, imagination, critical thinking, learning through play.

Curriculum connections:  Social Studies (community), Language Arts, Career Education

My thoughts:  For lack of better terms, this is a really cool app!  My four-year-old daughter really enjoyed the open-ended play and it was easy for her to figure out how to use the app.  I definitely see the value in sandbox style games for young children, as the lack of structure encourages them to be creative, use their imagination, and think for themselves rather than going through a series of prescribed steps.  However, Hoopa City goes beyond this and becomes something really special as the building combinations and possibilities are discovered.  For example, a heart and a brick build a school, and electricity and a leaf become a solar panel.  The result is that the app engages children in critical thinking as they attempt to come up with new combinations as well as figure out why a particular result came from a certain combination.

Ideas for use:  Beyond simply enjoying creating the city and exploring various combinations, students could also attempt to create a particular type of city (rural vs. urban, a beach town, forest setting, etc.) or re-create a setting from a favourite book.  The various combinations could inspire really interesting discussions in the classroom as to why particular combinations result in certain buildings or features (e.g. Why does a heart and brick build a school?).  This app could also be used as a starter for storytelling, and children would be excited about sharing their work and talking about their reasoning in building their city.  Students would also be able to work on this app both collaboratively or individually.  The app also aligns with curriculum in Social Studies and could link to lessons about community.

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