I love everything about WilderQuest. It cleverly encourages kids to connect with nature and the outdoors using technology. The brainchild of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, they have now arranged some fabulous activities around NSW over the month of April during school holidays. You can find the complete list here. A couple though, caught my eye. From looking for creatures on a dusk tour at Merimbula, learning about bush food and survival skills in Warrumbungle National Park, looking for life in the wetlands at Tumut, hunting for Easter Eggs left by the Bilbies of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, there’s really something for everyone. They are also leading a safari through Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. I can vouch for this one. Grace and I did a safari there last year and even slept amongst the animals. Such fun for kids and adults alike! I encourage you to take a look and get out and explore with your kids!
For those of you who’d like some more general information on WilderQuest, you can read my original post below.
When I was little, I wanted to be a Pirate, a Park Ranger or a Strapper. A pirate? Well, I fancied sailing the high seas, digging for treasure and teaching a parrot to talk. Park Ranger? I had visions of exploring the diversity of Australia’s flora and fauna. I wanted to travel from one end of my vast land to the other in an enormous caravan painted in bright happy colours and discover a new species of kangaroo or find a new flower that would, of course, be named after me. I would become known as a nomadic Pippi Longstocking. I’d drive the caravan, eat nothing but baked beans and cornflakes and go to bed whenever I wanted. My Bassett Hound Simon would be my faithful companion. Oh, the adventures we would have! Strapper? This ambition quickly evaporated when I discovered you had to be at work at 3.00am each morning.
None of these ‘careers’ came to pass but I still have an abiding love of outdoors and our Great Southern Land and have tried to instil the same passion in my two children. And now I’ve discovered a way technology can help me (and them). During their screen time, rather than having their heads stuck down, eyes glued to iPads, mindlessly playing Minecraft, Farmville, Moshi Monsters, Tapped Out or Angry Birds, I’ve introduced them to WilderQuest. It’s free, safe, engaging, educational and best of all; my children appear to love it.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service developed WilderQuest a little over a year ago. It has gone on to win a swag of educational and environmental awards and I can see why.
It provides all of the functions kids like in game websites, such as the ability to create their own avatar, decorate their own “space” ~ in this case a treetop cubby. They can select an online companion from a variety of cute Australian animals. There are a good number of games they can play, which ensures boredom doesn’t set in. Kids are awarded points for “winning” games and can collect badges or aim to top the leader board.
But what I really like about this initiative is that it is teaching children by default, about the flora and fauna of Australia, along with the diversity of our climatic zones and ecosystems. It also encourages respect for the environment and how they can more easily engage with the environment via their own back garden, playground and National Park. You can visit the rainforests, beaches and mangroves, woodlands and scrublands, the inland deserts or our alpine regions. The images are real but have a slightly animated feel, which always appeals to children. It is encouraging in tone and never preachy (which is important). Rather, it is simple and inspiring. It is graphically rich with funky audio and quirky animation, which ensures it keeps kids engaged. Only thing I’d change? I’d give Ranger Sam a kid’s voice.
Aimed at children 6-12, I think it could well appeal to slightly older children as well. And don’t think it’s only for Aussie kids. Children worldwide will get a kick out of visiting this website, playing its games and subsequently, hopefully putting Australia on their must-visit list.
Whilst technology devised to encourage children to connect with nature should never replace the real thing, I would happily let my children play this during their screen time. So pop over to WilderQuest and take a look. You can also find it on iTunes here. They also have a facebook page, which you can find here. You may well find that you get hooked, just like I have.
Until next time.
Van image found on www.camptrip.com ~ with thanks.