As Mr. Spicer, Sewickley Academy Science and Robotics Teacher, stated in a previous post, making observations and asking questions are at the heart of science. These essential skills have played a role in many major discoveries in life science. You too can be a naturalist and be part of a scientific community! Simply step out into nature and look around. Of course, technology has made this endeavor even easier with apps that help us identify what we see.
Of the many apps available to help you identify plants and animals, one that stands out is iNaturalist (it is available in your app store). It is free and backed by the California Academy of Sciences, National Geographic, and citizen scientists everywhere. Here are some aspects that make this app stand out:
- Data collection is easy. You can take a picture and possible identifications appear quickly.
- Information is abundant. Once your organism is identified you can easily access information about it in the app, including where it lives, how it feeds, and what other organisms it is related to. There are also links to other informative websites.
- It is collaborative. All organisms can be verified by other users on the app. The interactive map shows you where organisms are being identified in your community. In many instances, your identification data can be sent to researchers studying biodiversity in your community. This is a great way to practice citizen science!
The iNaturalist app has the potential to ignite scientific curiosity in all of us. If you are looking for educational activities for your student, the possibilities are endless. Here are some suggestions for your student:
- Create a lab journal tracking the date, time, location, environment (temperature, humidity, weather) of their discovery. Scientists do this every day!
- Investigate the life cycle of the organism they discovered. This is especially interesting for bugs!
- Create a portfolio of artistic drawings and sketches. This is especially fun for leaves!
- Have students investigate the migration patterns of the birds they see. What birds stay around all year? Where did the migrating birds come from? Your student can even research the geographical and cultural practices of the places the birds came from.
If your student is really interested in birds, the Audubon Society has a free birding app that includes bird calls and migration maps.
Your backyard is waiting!