person holding and ipad looking at augmented reality on screen

5 Augmented Reality Apps Under $5 For Your Science Classroom

Author: Shalece Kohnke;

“Science is too hard!”

“I just don’t get it!”

“I HATE science!”

I heard these three phrases at the start of every school year or when learning got tough. Science is full of marvelous and intriguing content, but unfortunately, it can be difficult for students of all backgrounds and abilities to grasp. But why is science so hard? Science concepts build upon each other and become increasingly abstract and complex. Students struggle to grasp the complex processes that are often invisible to the naked eye. Augmented reality (AR) can provide a solution by helping students visualize complex concepts and processes. AR makes science content more accessible and understandable for all students.

Teacher preparation programs need to introduce and encourage immersive technologies as an inclusive teaching practice. Not only should preservice teachers learn how immersive technology can be an effective practice that reduces barriers to learning, but instructors must model how to find and implement immersive technologies and how to assess apps for content and accessibility features. This blog introduces five AR apps under five dollars that can be implemented in science classrooms immediately. 

What is AR?

Augmented reality (AR) blends the real world with a digital one by overlaying digital content onto your surroundings. AR technology has become increasingly commonplace that some high-quality AR technology is available for free or low cost and accessible from your smartphone or tablet.

Why should I use AR in my science class?

Aside from the “coolness” factor, AR makes complex and abstract science concepts more concrete. Physical models and diagrams can only demonstrate science concepts statically and without outlining the ongoing processes. AR is more than an image projected on your classroom screen or in a book. AR allows you to interact with science concepts. For example, AR can visually demonstrate the combination of carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight as it reacts to glucose and oxygen at the cellular level when a plant is undergoing photosynthesis. You can go even further to interact with the various organelles within that cell at every angle, all happening at your fingertips.

Five AR science apps

BigBangAR App logo

Compatibility: iOS (11.0 or higher); Cost: $0
The birth of the universe starts in the palm of your hand and ends with the current state of our solar system. Experience subatomic particles  giving rise to elements from the big bang through a supernova. End your journey with a “we are all made of star stuff” selfie.

Perpetual Garden App logo

Compatibility: iOS (11.0 or higher), Android OS (8.0, or higher); Cost: $0
Experience the Appalachian–Blue Ridge Forest floor and the effect of over-browsing by deer on trophic cascades using visual and auditory stimuli. Toggle between the forest in-balance and out-of-balance.

Brainapse logo

Compatibility: iOS (12.1 or higher)Cost: $1.99
Explore the structure, function, and anatomy of the human skull, brain, and brain cells. Clear labeling, description, and high-quality graphics make this easy to use. Watch information processes as they unfold. End with an interactive multiplayer quiz.

Froggipedia logo

Compatibility: iOS (11.0 or higher)Cost: $3.99
Through 8 different languages, experience a frog metamorphoses through its life cycle. See an adult frog from different perspectives and through dissection exploring the integumentary, muscular, skeletal, nervous, urological, respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems. Finish your experience with an interactive quiz.

Plantale logo

Compatibility: iOS (12.0 or higher)Cost: $0.99
Experience the lifecycle of a plant from germination to reproduction. Explore internal and external anatomy and processes, including photosynthesis.

Alignment to NGSS

These tools align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) including Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI). The table below describes how you would use each app and the corresponding NGSS and DCI. 

App Alignment to NGSS


Best Use


Disciplinary Core Idea



Initial content delivery

HS-ESS1 Earth's Place in the Universe

ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars


Perpetual Garden App



MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics


HS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics


LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems


LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience


LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans



Initial content delivery

MS. Structure, Function, and Information Processing

LS1.A: Structure and Function

LS1.D: Information Processing



Initial content delivery

K-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes


3-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes


HS-LS1-2 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

LS1.A: Structure and Function


LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms


LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms



Initial content delivery


1-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes


4-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes


HS. Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

LS1.A: Structure and Function


LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems


LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

Quick Tips for Implementing AR in the Classroom:

  • Teach and review expectations and how to use the app.
  • Allow time for student exploration of the app and content.
  • Make connections to content during or after the AR experience.
  • Have extra technology and headphones on hand for students who do not have devices.
  • Consider space requirements. Students need flat surfaces and room to interact with the simulation. Try out your app to determine the required space.
  • Expect your students to find features you did not. Learn from them!
  • Use text-to-speech functionality built into student devices for students who struggle with reading or prefer to listen to text.
  • Explore the language options within different apps.

Let’s Make this a Conversation:

What are your experiences teaching preservice teachers to use AR in the classroom or your experience using it in the classroom? What has worked for you? What challenges have you faced? Do you know of other affordable apps? We’d love to have you share in our community.