We know that our time spent outside in nature influences the way we feel about, and the way we behave towards, nature. But kids are spending less and less time outside. As children’s screen time has increased, the time they spend outdoors in nature has decreased. In light of this growing disconnect between technology and outdoor experiences, a mobile app may seem an unlikely candidate for getting kids outside and changing their relationships with nature. That is, however, exactly what we aim to do!
A team of researchers at the University of Washington is developing a mobile app, called NatureCollections, that seeks to harness the power of emerging technologies to engage elementary school children in an exploration of the natural world. Leveraging kids’ love for collecting things (stickers, baseball cards, shells, etc.), NatureCollections Beta lets kids take pictures of nature, identify what they find, and share and curate their photos in categories such as plants, birds, and landscapes. Children using the app are encouraged to go outside and explore their natural surroundings in order to complete photo challenges or photo scavenger hunts. And they can learn more about nature by classifying objects in their photos. NatureCollections is a winner of the University of Washington’s 2017 Innovation Award, additional information about the award can be found here.
Looking forward, future versions of the app will include features that will allow children to work together towards completing team activities, and to challenge their friends to match theirnature photos. Once we develop the app, the research team will evaluate its effectiveness at getting kids outside and the potential for technology-mediated nature exploration to increase children’s connectedness to and fascination with nature.
So we need you! Right now (2018), we are seeking partners (both parents and educators) to help us improve the design and future development of the NatureCollections app.
The NatureCollections app gets kids out into nature by documenting their journey and findings! Check it out here!
Want to get involved? We're looking for parents and educators who want to help our research project; learn how you can get involved here!