Tech in Nature
Use of technology is growing at an unbelievable rate across all aspects of society, even at school. Classrooms are mirroring the reality of our students’ futures and coding is now part of the new elementary math curriculum.
Tech, when used appropriately, is a tool. One that can help us learn, explore, investigate, analyze, and problem solve. But using technology to connect with nature seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we disconnect to reconnect?
Maybe not. Maybe, rather than fighting against technology, we can embrace it as a way to get us outside, learning, playing and exploring. Afterall, we’ve been using technology in nature since the beginning!
But what defines technology and how might we think of tech in the context of nature? When I was a kid, technology in the outdoors meant using a compass, snowshoes, binoculars, flint and steel. Tech just looks a little different today. The keyword now is digital!
Digital can be the device itself – like a camera, smartphone, iPad or GPS unit. Or, it might mean specific apps to guide you in your outdoor adventures.
Kids + tech + nature
Where do you start?
Again, it sounds counterintuitive, but start inside. Take some time with Google Maps and look up a local greenspace you could explore – like a municipal park, a forest tract in York Region, Simcoe County or Durham Region, a Lake Simcoe waterfront trail, or any one of Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority’s beautiful conservation areas. Turn on Google Satellite View and talk about what you notice about the location. Is it mostly forested? Are there areas of open meadows? Wetlands? Are there land features you aren’t able to identify?
With a plan for where you’re headed, it’s time to go. Keep it simple. Chat with your kids about what you are seeing and how that compares to what Google Satellite showed. Bring your digital camera along and take photos of your adventure. Share them with us on Instagram
@lakesimcoeconservation. Or challenge your family to collect objects from nature (non-living of course and remember to only collect what you find on the ground) and use them to create
ephemeral art, which you can also photograph!
Better yet, check out the
Avenza app. Download it for free and search for available maps near you. Once you arrive at your chosen location for your outdoor adventure, launch Avenza and use it to help you navigate – no data required!
Combining tech and nature can be very powerful but it also has its challenges.
Children already spend too much time on screens, increasing rates of myopia (nearsightedness) and childhood obesity. Not to mention the changes brought about to the way students learn as a result of COVID 19, especially those who have opted to learn from home – more screen time than ever before!
“Getting the balance right between green time and screen time is important for your kids’ health, cognitive and emotional development and will help them grow into the capable and resilient people you want them to be” –
Outdoor Classroom Day
But we don’t have to approach it as a choice between either technology or nature. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone’s health and wellbeing to take a stroll through the woods, even if that means there’s a phone in your hand? I’m willing to bet that before long, your kids become more interested in what’s around them than what’s on the screen.