In 1999, famous Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman introduced an annual art contest dedicated to getting youth out into nature and experiencing the wonders of the wild.
Six years later, the Get to Know program took what Bateman started and transformed it into a digital format that is more accessible to the public. The new “experiential program” blends the environmental with technological creating a platform that engages and educates the public.
Joining forces with organization such as Parks Canada, US Forest Service, Canadian Wildlife Federation and others, Get to Know has developed a game for iOS and Android that puts the users in scenarios where they have to physically explore and connect with the environment. Targeted for an audience ages nine to 14, Get to Know plays like a scavenger hunt where answering trivia and uncovering clues earns experience points that advances the players in rank and progress them through national parks, zoos and other natural sites.
The first test drive of the app took place in the Calgary Zoo, using QR codes to trigger clues and achievements at various areas. “We are finding that kids enjoy the context of pretending to be spies when seeking for QR codes,” said Andrew Munroe, program coordinator of Get to Know. “Because the storyline of the app is about joining a spy agency, they feel it is little more of a spy-like activity.”
“In national parks you cannot install anything new,” Munroe told Techvibes. “You have to use what is already there. Eventually we like to do away with QR codes altogether, because there is the issue of maintenance and vandalism, and getting permission to install a small post can be a huge undertaking.”
Although QR codes are effective in the game play, Get to Know is hoping to move forward into using Bluetooth low energy beacons that can be buried in the ground and has battery life to last years.
Get to Know is consistently adding new features into their game and expanding to different natural locations. Currently the team is planning to introduce the game to Mount St. Helen’s National Volcanic Monument in Washington in September. Other sites they are aiming to include in the near future are Vancouver, Kelowna, Los Angeles, and even Cumberland, Wisconsin.
“We want to create a value-added proposition for people who are already at the site,” Munroe explained. “With this app we are more focused on bio-diversity so it is really about the species we are profiling. So we plant a code in front of known grove of red cedar in Stanley Park and then we can get people to engage with the red cedar in a way that is other than just looking at it.”
Get to Know is currently a work in progress, but with the strong goal of focusing on app and game development specifically targeted for socially conscious, active living-based clients, the possibility is infinite. Currently Get to Know is working in collaboration with Taking it Global and Heritage Canada to develop an app celebrating the 150 anniversary of Canada, which is coming up in 2017.
“That will be another location-based, educational app that we are pretty excited about,” added Munroe.