It is not often that I have come across an electronic game that I would actually actively encourage my kids to play. I have looked at a few games that try to teach children about the environment, and that is all well and good, but in the end I usually try to get them off their machines and out into real nature.
I am keen to learn and teach my boys about the wildlife we can discover right outside our door. We have been planting hundreds of trees over the last ten years, and we have noticed a marked increase in the number and variety of birds. We have galahs, yellow-crested cockatoos, the occasional black cockatoo, crimson rosellas, eastern rosellas, magpies, a range of wrens and finches and many other birds. My boys know most of our common birds, but all too often, we look at a bird or listen to an unusual bird song, and then we are stumped. Unfortunately, by the time we have run inside to grab the bird book and the binoculars, the bird is gone and we still don't know what we have seen.
And then I heard about Questabird. Questabird is a game app for Android (iOS is coming soon). The idea is simple: use the elements of gaming to increase knowledge of Australia's natural environment.
Questabird can only be played outside - you have to go outside to find, photograph and document birds and insects for your quest, and in the process kids and adults not only learn about the species of birds and insects around them, but also help map Australia's biodiversity.
My boys have been using my phone to play the game for some time now. They are having a lot of fun, we all learn a lot and one of my boys even discovered a bird that was hitherto not documented to occur in our region. And it's free!