How do you lure kids away from the screen? You build a website, according to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service – which today launched a new program to inspire a love of nature among young children and motivate them and their families to spend more time playing outside.
Named WilderQuest, the program links a new website, www.wilderquest.nsw.gov.au and an app available on iPad, designed for five to eight year old children with real-world experiences in national parks across NSW.
According to the NPWS, WilderQuest will help primary school-aged children to better understand the natural world, and give them the inspiration and opportunities to spend time outside.
“We know that the more people understand our natural world, and want to spend time in nature, the better equipped we’ll all be to protect it for future generations,” said NPWS Manager of Visitor Experience and Education, Simon Stroud.
“WilderQuest brings the natural world into people’s homes, and creates an accurate and fun on-screen environment that actively encourages kids to continue their adventure outside with their family and friends.
“WilderQuest will be particularly useful to reach and inspire children who live in urban and suburban areas, who have less access to natural spaces.
“We’re tapping into the lure of screen time to actually draw children away from it, and into the outdoors,” Simon said.
The WilderQuest experience starts online and through an app designed for the iPad, using games to help children learn about the environments and native animals that can be found in NSW.
As children progress through the online experiences, they’re actively encouraged to continue the adventure outside in their backyard or local park. Their parents are also encouraged to take their children to participate in WilderQuest Discovery activities in national parks across the State.
According to parenting expert, university lecturer and author, Kathy Walker, the strong links between the online and real-world environments are an important distinction.
“Working with Australian kids, we see every day how much they thrive on outdoor time, and particularly that spent with friends and families, in a natural environment.
“With the WilderQuest program, the NPWS has clearly decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. In creating an online world that matches the real one, and using the lure of screen time to incentivise actually stepping away from the screen and into the outdoors, they’re capitalising on the very thing that countless studies have shown keeps children indoors in the first place.
WilderQuest has been initially developed for use in the home by children and their parents, with work already well underway to integrate the program into primary school classrooms through the National Parks Discovery Schools program, later in 2012.
Already linked to infant school syllabus, WilderQuest is intended to become a shared home and school resource allowing both parents and teachers to share in the experience.
WilderQuest is free to use and can be found at www.wilderquest.nsw.gov.au.
The WilderQuest app is available for free from the App Store on iPad, or at www.itunes.com/appstore.