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What's it about?
SEEK by iNATURALIST is a citizen science app that enables kids to use their mobile devices to identify plants and animals they encounter. After viewing a brief disclaimer to stay safe (don't harass the animals!), kids can browse a list of plants and animals they're likely to see near their current location. To identify a species, tap the plus sign to snap a photo or choose an image from the device's camera roll, crop the image, and then tap Done. If the image is clear enough, you'll read a brief profile of the found species, usually featuring info from Wikipedia, that includes the species's scientific name, a photo, a graph of the best times of year to spot this species, plus a tally of the number of times this species has been seen by iNaturalist users worldwide. Users can browse a gallery of the species they've seen, and they can earn badges for each species they add to their collection.
Is it any good?
While you may not identify every tree in the forest, this is a solid tool for empowering kids to engage with the outdoors. Seek by iNaturalist's privacy features are solid: When kids spot a species and see a map of where other users have observed it, they're just viewing data submitted by adults without sharing their own photos or location. It's encouraging that kids can feel like they're part of the larger world of citizen science without compromising their own privacy.
Seek is powerful when it works: It's especially rewarding with flowers and with plants with distinctive-looking leaves. However, you might find yourself getting the "hrrrrrrm" error message a bit more often than you might expect, especially with tall trees whose leaves are too far out of reach. Be sure to bring a measure of patience to using the app -- and be ready to look around for other plants and animals if the first one doesn't work. While each species profile cites a web resource for its information, it would be even better if these profiles contained a clickable link to that resource, especially if it were kid-friendly and accessible. This could be a great gateway for engaging reluctant readers and budding naturalists alike.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Seek by iNaturalist can help kids learn about the natural world. Visit a local park, snap pics around your yard, or even take photos of houseplants and talk about how plants and animals live together all around us.
Each time you launch the app, there's a disclaimer warning users to be safe -- and legal! -- as they try to get close enough to plants and animals to snap a good photo. Talk about the best ways to take photos with the app: What parts of a flower or bush should be your photo's focus? How might you best use the app to take photos of more elusive animals, like deer or rabbits?
Talk about common names vs. scientific names, and learn more together about taxonomic ranks of kingdom, phylum or division, class, order, family, genus, and species. What familiar plants and animals fall in each? Talk about what the scientific names of plants and animals can tell you about those plants' and animals' characteristics.
Each plant or animal's description contains a link to a website like Wikipedia. What other resources might you use to learn more about each of these species?
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
- Subjects: Science: animals, biology, ecosystems and the environment, plants
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, asking questions, collecting data
Tech Skills: using and applying technology
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: March 11, 2018
- Category: Education
- Topics: STEM, Bugs, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Size: 31.20 MB
- Publisher: iNaturalist
- Version: 1.0.1
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 11.2 or later
- Last updated: March 31, 2019
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For kids who love science and the outdoors
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