By Julie Kucks
Middle and High Schoolers rely on their smartphones. They also are privy to many conversations about climate change in today’s world and often hold serious concern for the health of the earth. But the knowledge of the dire state of the earth can easily overwhelm, causing anxiety and depression rather than leading to empowerment. A powerful and practical way to overcome this mental health overwhelm is to get out into nature regularly, learn about it, engage with it, love it, and learn organically how you specifically want to help it.
With a myriad of beautifully designed nature apps available, screen time can be put to good use in encouraging younger generations to use technology to actively engage with and learn about nature. This week, we had our team investigate some interactive nature apps that can encourage your tech-lovers to become knowledgeable nature-lovers.
PictureThis is a plant identification app that also provides facts and practical tips for caring for your own plant life, both indoors and outdoors. The app’s layout is simple to navigate and provides short, interactive videos about each plant upon identification. There are facts about the plants’ toxicity levels, a poetry section about specific plants, and a “Frequently Asked Questions” section to learn what other people are curious about.
Seek by iNaturalist
This kid-friendly app, created by the California Academy of the Sciences, provides location-specific plant and animal identification. By clicking the camera icon, the user can take pictures of plants and animals in their area and identify them. Seasonal challenges require them to find and record images of different species of wildlife such as bees, wildflowers, and amphibians. The levels and achievements section make nature discovery fun!
Audubon Bird Guide
Created by the National Audubon Society, this bird identification app has a field guide complete with North American bird calls, images, and descriptions to aid in identification. There is also an “explore” option which gives locations of popular birding hotspots nearby as well as bird sightings reported by other app users with times and locations. Users can keep track of their sightings and discoveries through pictures and written records. It may be the tool that turns that tech enthusiast into a bird enthusiast!
Night Sky X
This astounding app will allow you to experience deep space exploration and star identification simply by pointing your camera at the night sky. The app contains a catalog of over 1.7 billion stars. The app also includes augmented reality features that allows you to pull a planet or constellation out of the sky and experience it in 3-D detail. There are personalized tags that can
be used for individualized exploration and the ability to share discoveries with friends directly from the app encourages social engagement.
The technology of today, when used well, can help younger generations to connect with the world around them, learn, discover, and understand how they can make significant changes.
NJIN wants to help them make those changes! We have just opened enrollment for our L.E.A.F. program. The Leadership Enterprise at Fredon is an opportunity for middle and high school students to learn innovative entrepreneurial solutions to real environmental challenges. Students will learn about sustainable development, the future of food, a circular economic model, and how they can make a difference. High schoolers will receive a Youth Impact Lab certification from Babson College.
Spaces are filling up!
Julie is a freelance content writer for New Jersey Institute of Nature and Cedar Hill Prep. Her work has also been featured in Fine Living Lancaster. Julie's writing interests include sustainable living practices, permaculture, mental health, and the power of breathwork. She also enjoys piano tuning, singing and songwriting, playing mountain dulcimer, hiking, and carousing with her kittens, Nike & Lionne.