The Best Free Apps for Outdoor Education
Outdoor education is a super effective way of teaching pupils about the plight of the environment. By unplugging children from technology and letting them sink their fingers into the soil, we can guide them towards a lifelong reverence for the Great Outdoors – an emotional connection that is integral to nurturing the next generation of environmentalists.
However, as technology continues its upward trajectory, is it possible –and advisable- to marry outdoor education and technology? Absolutely. Outdoor educators can and should embrace digitalization by turning mobile devices into portals of environmentalism and sustainable action. Indeed, there are a number of amazing apps out there that enable the whole class to do just that, transforming iPads and the internet into tools of ecological pedagogy.
Here’s a selection of my personal favorite’s. They're all free and skills-focused. Let me know of any others you use on regular basis (preferably free!).
Project Noah is an award-winning citizen scientist app designed to help people of all ages reconnect with the natural world. Initially intended as a “digital butterfly net,” the app has since evolved into an all-encompassing platform of global wildlife documentation.
Backed by National Geographic, Project Noah is helping a new generation of nature explorers to appreciate wildlife and to simultaneously collect important ecological data about global biodiversity.Whilst this might all sound like advanced stuff, it’s a simple point-and-shoot process that is incentivized by Boy-Scout-style patches that are awarded to active citizen scientists for certain spottings. For example, if you submit 20 bird spottings, you get the Bird Specialist patch, whilst over 100 wildlife sightings in total will earn you the Explorers patch.
Join Project Noah as a class and work towards all of the ecological patches together.
If you’re going out into the field with your class, the last thing you want is to cart around a heavy guide book that lists flora and fauna in a typically encyclopedic tone. However with the Trees PRO app, you don’t have to.
Trees PRO is a pocket (in the truest sense of the word) field guide that catalogues the world’s most common species by giving you the option to easily identify trees, fruits, grasses and flowers without the heavy book or the frantic thumbing of an index. Simply enter a little information about the unidentified specimen and the app will tell you everything you need to know. Plus, it has a number of fun bonus features including a comprehensive library of facts and a quiz to test your pupils’ knowledge.
Green Up Lite
As an educational tool, Green Up puts children in charge of ecology and biodiversity. Including basic gardening lessons, your pupils will be practicing their knowledge of photosynthesis and the life cycle of plants whilst experimenting with concepts like pollination, pollution and climate change.
With a bright and gamefied interface designed specifically for school-age children, Green Up gives you the freedom to plant, grow and collect iPad plants without the need for any outside space. Therefore, this app is perfect for schools in urban environments that lack natural resources.
You can also download the pro version for $1.99.
Life for pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and moths is becoming increasingly difficult, with many species in decline. Bee Friendly is a great way of getting your class talking about bumble bees and ties in very neatly with the pollination lessons addressed in Green Up.
Similar to the citizen scientist objective in Project Noah, Bee Friendly asks its users to record the insects and plants in any given biodiversity (a garden, hedgerow, wood) and then upload the data to a central database. The difference here is that your information goes directly to scientists at the University of Sussex who are working tirelessly to save the bumble bee.
This is a great way of engaging your class with conservation by actually doing something to benefit the environment.