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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Connecting to Nature with Apps

Green Apps for Outdoor Classroom Adventures

If you are an environmental educator — teacher, nature guide, or parent— you will find this lesson plan,
Eco Detective Nature Hunt, exciting. In my Eco Mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, six feisty teens solve an intriguing eco mystery in order to save an endangered species. Now students can create their own eco mysteries with the new “green” apps. These inspire kids to go outside and observe nature closely. In other words, outside time and screen time do not have to be mutually exclusive. Instead of battling to keep kids away from gadgets, why not use technology to encourage kids to explore outdoors? In this blog I outline a way to use nature-based apps that enhance kids’ experience outdoors, and then arouse their curiosity to learn more through reading and research. 

Eco Mystery Bird Hunt
Audubon Field Trip with Kids (Boris Datnow)


iPhone. Download Leafsnap, free from the App Store, to the iPhone. Download BookCreator, free from the App Store, to the iPad. 8 x 11 sheets of white paper. Paper lunch bags. A nature trail that runs through a wooded area located on the school grounds, a park, or nature center.
Eco Mystery Nature trail
Where are the Kids? Get Kids Outdoors with Digital Apps

Launching the Project:
To arouse excitement tell students that they will be making an
Eco Detective Scavenger Hunt to share with others. Before they go out on the trail, challenge them to brainstorm what evidence/clues to living things they might look for on the nature trail: Items can include: 
A source of water for an animal — stream, puddle, or drops on leaves.
Food for an animal — plants, insects, animals, or fungi.
Shelter for an animals — holes, nests, under rocks or fallen trees.
Trees that animals can climb for protection— squirrels, snakes, bears.
A seed transporter—pinecone, acorn, maple seeds, or dandelion silk.
Signs of animals —scat, tracks, chewed on vegetation.
Something dead: dead animals, fallen leaves, sticks, trees, and plants. How do these dead things help other living things? Explain that dead vegetation provides homes for animals, adds nutrients to the soil, and is food for animals such as worms and termites, which are eaten by larger animals.
Something with multiple legs, like an insect, spider, or centipede. 
Animal sounds —birdsong, cicadas or the rustling of squirrels.
Signs of humans might include power lines, litter, human footprints, trail markers, or the trail itself. Do any of these human influences pose risks to wildlife? Do you hear evidence of humans— the sounds of airplanes, cars or other human activity.

On The Nature Trail:

Red Cock-cokaded woodpeckwer

Each student needs to collect at least five different tree leaves to bring back into the classroom. Put the leaves in the paper bag.
Take photographs of living things or clues of living things with the iPhone. Take photos of other living things along the trail (see above). Note: students must stay on the trail and take care not to damage anything. 

In the Classroom:
Students will open
Leafsnap, photograph the leaves they have collected, and then identify the leaves with the data base on Leafsnap.
BookCreator on the iPad. Create pages for Eco Detective Scavenger Hunt.

Share the Eco Detective Scavenger Hunt.
Export the book as a Pdf to share with your class, your school, and your community. You can also print the book. Congratulations you have completed your Scavenger Hunt!
Endangered Trees: Did you know that there are endangered trees? For more information visit: The Five Most Endangered Trees in North America
A Note to Teachers and Nature Guides: I am available to do presentations/workshops for teachers and students (4th grade and up). I will be honored to help you launch your own Project Based Learning project using these apps. Please contact me:

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