Digitizing the Outdoors: Can Gaming be the Gateway to Nature?
By Danielle Moodie-Mills
National Wildlife Federation
More and more kids are using mobile devices. By ‘digitizing the outdoors,’ it may be possible to harness that trend and connect more people to nature.
Children today are spending alarming amounts of their time indoors and in front of screens—7.5 hours per day on electronic devices.
Research suggests that ADHD and other behavioral issues are lessened when children spend time in the outdoors. Most notably, Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woodsand architect of the term Nature Deficit Disorder has argued that “an environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”
One complaint from children, however, is the outdoors are “boring,” which is a far cry from it being a “portal to the wider world.” As a kid I used the outdoors as a way to get away from the trappings of schoolwork and housework. Unlike kids today, I used the outdoors as my outlet–instead of using an electric outlet as my escape.
It’s possible however, that I am aging and just can’t understand what the “kids are into these days.” But if the rise in childhood obesity, ADHD, and other health issues are any indicators of the 21st century childhood realities—I’ll hold tight to my fort-building, Red Rover, hide-and-go-seek 20th century kid fun!
Is it possible though that kids today don’t have to choose between the delight of a swinging screen door to the outdoors and the allure of the digital screen? Can we find a way to meld these two dichotomous worlds? Recently, the Obama Administration followed the lead of the
Earlier this month the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy held a briefing entitled Outdoor Mobile Games and
Both groups discussed the need for collaboration. “Games could help turn a regular park into a storybook” said one game aficionado. It can’t be negated that the popularity of the Olympic National Forest went through the roof once the movie Twilight was released–that’s the power of media, and arguably the power of games. Several agencies across the
Digitizing the outdoors is a new trend that’s gaining traction even at the nation’s largest conservation organization. The National Wildlife Federation has entered into the electronic market with several offerings for virtual exploration into nature using the iPad as well as their geo-caching “nature treasure hunt,” a Nature Find website and digitizing their famous Ranger Rick magazine among other electronic advancements.
If we could entice these tech savvy kids with the natural world through games, not only could we begin to reverse the sedentary indoor childhood trend, but build conservation stewards of tomorrow—one click at a time.
Do you think digitizing the outdoors is a good thing? Tell us what you think. Let us know at [email protected].
Danielle Moodie-Mills joined the NWF team in 2010 as Senior Manager for Environmental Education Campaigns. From the classroom to Capitol Hill, Danielle has taught her students and advocated for the use of the environment in education as an integrating tool. “We don’t live in silos, so why should children learn that way?”