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Creating Environmental Awareness with Augmented Reality Technology

Conservation Education
December 13th, 2017 at 12:15PM

A family playing with the Discovery Agents app at Chilao Visitor Center in the Angeles National Forest, uses a conveniently located QR Code. (Forest Service photo)
A family playing with the Discovery Agents app at Chilao Visitor Center in the Angeles National Forest, uses a conveniently located QR Code. (Forest Service photo)

As part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative, the USDA Forest Service has partnered with the American Recreation Coalition to bring the Agents of Discovery mobile game. The new Internet-based game is a leading educational technology platform focused on national forests and grasslands.

On more than 50 different forest sites across the country folks, both young and older, can now enjoy this fun new way to explore our public lands by visiting local forest and unlocking geo-triggered, augmented reality (AR) challenges.

Challenges take the form of questions and are created by Forest Service interpreters and partner organizations. With Agents of Discovery, our forest interpreters are able to gamify information in a way that's proven to get kids active while learning and exploring. Because content can be easily changed to coincide with the seasons or special events, national forest staff will be updating their games regularly so returning visitors have new challenges to complete.

And challenges are site-specific encouraging kids to learn more about the flora, fauna, and other natural features of the forest. At the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, for instance, agents are asked to solve challenges about the endangered Red Wolf, so kids can learn about the captive breeding program at this site.

We know that getting kids out in nature is important if we want them to understand the importance of improving and conserving forests and waterways and the benefits they provide. Researchers at Cornell University have found that children exposed to nature before the age of 11 are more likely to care about the environment as adults.

There are participating national forests across the country with mission sites ranging from California to Florida. Find the Agents of Discovery mission near you by typing your location into Discover the Forest’s Interactive Map.

Even though Agents of Discovery does not require data or Wi-Fi to play once it has been downloaded, keep in mind that most national forests and parks do not have Wi-Fi. So remember to download Agents of Discovery app and the mission before you go on your adventure.

A PSA announcing the free app. (USDA Forest Service)
A PSA announcing the free app. (USDA Forest Service)