It can be an uphill battle in our house to get my two daughters to put down their iPads and head outside. As a Texas Master Naturalist, I’m always looking for creative ways to get them out enjoying nature. I hope one day they’ll be as excited as I am to watch a hummingbird visit our feeder or spot a new wildflower blooming. I admittedly have a long way to go in convincing them that these things are more exciting than their favorite Roblox game, but I won’t give up!
Rather than fighting the screens, why not try bringing them outside? There is a place for technology in nature too! In particular, I am a big fan of a free app called Seek. It helps kids explore nature in a fun and fresh way. The app uses image recognition technology to identify plants, insects, and other animals!
Seek is great for kids but helpful for adults too. You can head outside to your backyard or a local park and start exploring.
- Curious about a plant growing in your yard? Seek can help you identify it.
- Want to know the name of a butterfly you’ve spotted on your flowers? Upload a photo to Seek to find out.
- Did your kids find a mystery bug? Take a photo and learn about it.
How to Use the Seek App
- Take a photo of the plant or animal with the Seek app.
- Click “Identify Photo.”
The Seek app won’t always be able to identify your photo—it is still learning! For any photos the app can’t identify, I recommend uploading them to the more robust iNaturalist app instead. Get my tips for identifying plants with iNaturalist.
How to Use the Seek App to Learn About Nature
Once you have identified something, you can use the app to learn more about it. For instance, here is what we learned about the Queen butterfly:
- It is part of the Tiger Milkweed Butterflies family (Genus Danaus) and is related to the Monarch. That is why they look very similar to a Monarch!
- It is a native Texas insect.
- There have been over 2,000 observations of Queen butterflies on the Seek app in the San Antonio area, most of them occurring between September and November.
Because there are lots of people around San Antonio (and the world) using Seek and its companion app iNaturalist, you can also use the app to learn about plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife commonly spotted in your area.
Seek also incorporates a gaming aspect where you can win badges for competing in fun challenges, such as:
- Bee Challenge (find three species of bees)
- Exoskeleton Challenge (find five species of arthropods)
- Seed Dispersal Challenge (find seed dispersing plants and animals)
Jane Goodall once said, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” The Seek app allows us to connect with nature in a new way. Once a child knows the name of an insect, it is no longer just an insect. It is something they want to learn more about. Once they learn more about it, they’ll appreciate it more. An app like Seek is the first step toward turning our children into mini citizen scientists and future protectors of our planet!