What will classrooms of the future be like?

In many ways, the future of classroom learning has yet to be fully imagined. Augmented reality (AR), 3D printing, and other emerging technologies are all likely to pave the way for the future of education.

So as you might imagine, classrooms are going high-tech. This is especially true when it comes to teaching complex topics like sustainability. While preparing for the next standardized test is often considered mission critical, many teachers and school administrators find themselves looking for fun and interactive ways to engage students around broader life lessons and skills that will last a lifetime. Sustainability is one such topic, and kids of all ages tend to gravitate toward it. Here are some of the top sustainability apps for tech lessons in the classroom, good for K-12 and beyond.

Sustainability Apps: for All Ages

Google Expeditions allows students of all ages to experience the wonders of the natural world right from their iPads. While nothing can replace a real-life encounter with a polar bear, virtual reality field trips broaden the horizons of experiential learning well beyond a school’s budget. The collection of destinations includes everything from rainforests in the Amazon to glaciers in Antarctica, ensuring the world is at students’ fingertips. This provides a great opportunity for young students to explore our planet, helping them understand why we should take steps, both big and small, to protect it along the way.

For tips on using Google Expeditions and recommended lesson plans from the teachers themselves, check out this post on Sustainable Teaching.

Discovery VR is a similar concept to Google Expeditions but this app compiles the best nature shown on The Discovery Channel and adds virtual reality – with VR videos supported on Oculus Rift, Google Daydream and Cardboard, among others. Students can rescue rhinos, swim with the elephants or get close and personal with a tiger. They can also mountain bike, surf, and explore exotic destinations around the world in more than 360 videos that bring the world’s wonders right into the classroom.

Star Chart takes sustainability learning beyond our planet and into the open universe. With more than 20 million users around the world, it’s easy to see why the Star Chart astronomy app is such an awesome tool for learning about the constellations, solar system and our place in the universe. Students simply aim their phones or tablets at the sky – day or night – and learn where each constellation is located and interact with facts about planets and space exploration.

Sustainability Apps: for Younger Students

Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island is an adventure game designed for students Grades 2-4. With 18 levels in the game, students are challenged with managing the ecological health of Little Green Island. In order to preserve the island, students must complete missions including clearing trash, planting trees, and freeing birds from oil spills. Between missions, students read or listen to information about environmental issues and solutions. The app combines animations, gaming, songs and educational lessons to teach students how to protect and improve the environment.

Gro Garden is an interactive food and gardening app for Grades K-2. The app includes three places where students learn about growing, consuming and composting food – in the garden, the house and the compost pile. Students cycle through the stages of planting, harvesting, eating, making compost and planting again. They earn badges to reward their progress and meet fun characters including Connie the Compost and the Micro Organisms.

Sustainability Apps: for Older Students

JouleBug is a social sustainability app in which students can compete and earn points for a set list of sustainable actions. Joulebug links users with How-To videos, impact statistics and tips for a sustainable lifestyle, all while tracking actions and allowing for friendly competition. The app’s social function works not only between friends but within communities, allowing users to connect with community-specific sustainability news, actions, and challenges. The app turns lists of sustainability tips into well-organized action plans, providing students the opportunity to manage their individual footprints and that of their school or community.

References made to companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement of Rubicon by those companies in any way.