June 12th, 2024

Cypress Hills part of interactive program that ‘game-ifies’ park education

By Jeremy Appel on July 31, 2018.


jappel@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNJeremyAppel

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is one of 14 provincial parks participating in the Alberta Explorer Campaign this summer.

The program, which runs until Oct. 1, uses the Agents of Discovery augmented reality app to help educate visitors on Alberta’s parks.

Chris Dodds, interpreter and education co-ordinator at Cypress Hills, describes the campaign as a “high-tech scavenger hunt.”

Participants can download the app at the park’s visitor centre and then download the Cypress Hills-specific challenge.

The most popular module so far is “Search and Explore” for the Beaver Creek Loop, he said.

“It turns it from just being a hike, where you’re just walking around and looking at the trees, into a hike where there are all these digital points and little challenges and explorations along the way,” said Dodds.

For instance, as you walk, the phone will ask for information about specific trees or creatures, as well as the history of the park, which you learn about as you go on.

He likened Agents of Discovery to Pokemon Go, the augmented reality app based on the popular video game franchise that allows users to walk around with it and catch Pokemon in real life.

“It sort of game-ifies nature,” said Dodds.

“Yeah, they’re learning and, yeah, it’s educational, but they’re also running around in the bush trying to solve these little challenges.”

Alexandra Pony, spokesperson for the Kelowna-based Agents of Discovery, says the app is an effective way to get young people learning over the summer without realizing it.

“Kids love to play video games, and answering questions about what’s going on around them doesn’t really seem like any sort of educational content,” she said.

“It gets them moving and playing on their phones, while exploring the world around them.”

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