As parents, often times we feel like smart phones and tablets are keeping our children from interacting with each other and the world around them, but tech isn’t always the enemy. The next time your kid asks for the iPad, pull up these education apps that will help them better experience and understand nature.
1. Astronomy: Sky Guide (iTunes; US$0.99)
This app is fantastic for the curious stargazer. Teach your children about planets and constellations by simply opening the app and pointing your phone up at the night sky. The app will identify planets and clusters of stars and give useful, easy to understand facts. It might be hard to spot constellations in the city center, but if you get a little outside of Bangkok there are tons of stargazing opportunities. Check out the astrophotography snapped at an observatory in Samphran: https://www.masterdarks.com/. And if you can’t wait for your next vacation to set your eyes on some intergalactic wonders, plan a trip to the planetarium, which is currently playing the show Violent Universe Catastrophes of the Cosmos.
2. Exploration: Wild Time (free)
We think technology is at its finest when it helps you explore the world in new ways, and that’s what this app is all about. Broken down into activities that take various amounts of time, ranging from 10 minutes to half day, the series of prompts help get you out of the house and into an adventure. A 20-minute challenge might include “smell collecting,” picking up fragrant souvenirs like pond water or a flower to put into different jars to identify later… with your eyes closed. A half-day activity could be as elaborate as creating a working sundial.
3. Navigation: Geocaching (iTunes, Android, Windows; free, full version US$9.99)
This app allows people to channel their inner pirate with a global treasure hunt. There are more than 200 geocaches hidden across Bangkok and the app will lead you to them. Once you find one of these waterproof boxes that come in various sizes (could be hidden in a tree, or stuck to the back of a mailbox with a magnet), you sign the logbook, input your find on the app, and put the box back for the next seeker to discover. This activity will help kids sharpen their sense of direction and searching skills, plus it can give any outing a new covert mission. Some of the boxes are filled with neat stuff like toys and gadgets, but if you want to take something out, you have to leave something just as cool.
4. Biology: Project Noah (iTunes; free)
Project Noah is a tool that allows budding adventurers and scientists to share their discoveries with fellow enthusiasts. Find a cool insect you can’t identify? Take a picture and post it for other avid Project Noah followers to inspect. This database lists thousands of organisms from around the world and if you find something interesting, you could be helping real-life scientists with their ongoing research.
5. Bushcraft: DIY Skills (iTunes; free)
Time spent outdoors is an opportunity to learn a new skillset. This app, with the fitting motto “be awesome”, will help you learn how to do everything from building a low-impact campfire to tying the ultimate knot. There are also challenges for more specialized interests like ornithology (identify a bird feather), biology (demonstrate capillary action), or mycology (find a mushroom habitat). You learn new things, find new friends, and build a portfolio of achievements you can share.
Editor’s Note: This article is by Merritt Gurley, Camp Director of Camp Sun Bear, a sleep-away summer camp for kids ages 8 to 15 in Khao Yai, offering a week of adventure. Fun-filled days include cycling, rock-climbing, zip-lining, hiking, swimming, canoeing and playing in the sun.