About a year ago I decided to check out a Birding Beijing social event here in Beijing, China. I do a great deal of work within my school with regards to environmental and nature education, but I wanted to meet people from outside the international school world who like-minded.
It was a fantastic event and I met some amazing people. I met scientists, birders, conservationists, an individual who runs a bird rescue center from his house and more.
One gentleman I met, an American scientist working at a natural history museum in Beijing asked me if I use the iNaturalist app. I said that I didn’t and he explained it to me.
“iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature” – from the iNaturalist website.
iNaturalist is a citizen science tool. When you take photos of plants, birds, insects, wildlife, etc., it records where the sighting was and using artificial intelligence and other members of the iNaturalist community to identify when you documented. Later this data can be used by scientists, ecologists, conservationists, etc., to learn about different species of life.
The man I met that night explained that almost no one in Beijing uses the app so it is sort of an information void. He said we need more people in the area using it so we can collect that useful data about the outdoors.
I downloaded it, started using it and LOVED it!
I have documented nearly 200 plants and animals so far in China, Japan, and Canada. I plan to document many more.
I am also going to set up an account for my classroom so I can get some students to document the various plants and trees around our campus. My students can go outside using our class iPads and learn more about the plants they come across each and every day.
iNaturalist is a great nature/technology combination for teachers and learners of almost all ages.
About the Writer:
Kevin O’Shea is a PYP/Nature/Outdoor educator currently based in Beijing, China. He is a father, husband, and avid conservationist. Kevin is an advocate for outdoor play and nature education. He is the host of the long-running Just Japan Podcast and is currently developing the Making Better Teachers Podcast!