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 has developed 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, 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. 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 their nature photos. Once we develop the app, the research team will evaluate its effectiveness at getting kids outside and the potential role technology-mediated nature exploration to increase children’s connectedness to and fascination with nature. Interested in participating in future app evaluation studies, please fill out this form.
Our team have recently won a $50,000 award to explore its commercialization potential. The Population Health Innovation Award, funded jointly by UW CoMotion and the Population Health Initiative, supports entrepreneurial innovations that seek to improve people’s health and well-being. The funding is intended to bridge the gap between grant-funded academic research and the level of development needed to attract seed funding from investors who are looking to make a commercial or social impact. Read more about the awarded funds here.