17 Apr 2017

Nature missions for digital natives

From Easter Monday, 8:43 am on 17 April 2017

The struggle for parents to get children away from their screens might be a bit easier thanks to the founders of website Wild Eyes.

Paul Ward and Vicky Pope are using modern technology to connect children with the environment.

They have created the website Wild Eyes as a way to connect kids with nature and complete missions which they then, ironically, post online.

Ward says he noticed children were growing up in a very different way to what he did.

“There’s very little free-roaming, there’s traffic dangers, there’s stranger danger, in general we’re helicopter parenting in an incredibly more intensive way than we have in the past.”

He says that’s concerning for a number of reasons but particularly in limiting children’s’ connection with the outdoors and the environment.

During his upbringing a really important activity for Ward was the wild-track activity book, and he says he tried to figure out what a modern day equivalent would be.

“What would the provocation of that be for a digital native, you know, a nine-year-old in 2017?”

The project aims to target 8 to 12-year-olds, because they’re seeing what adults and their older siblings or peers are doing but are still innocent and curious enough to become involved, Ward says.

Using Wild Eyes, children are invited to partake in a suite of missions and then share their findings online.

The missions include building a backyard bivvy, which Ward says is something people have been doing for millennia and is a very kiwi activity.

“That idea of a traditional kiwi upbringing is a myth for a lot of kiwi kids.

“A lot of kiwi kids are growing up in ways that are no different to kids growing up in cities in the States, or the UK or Australia.”

He says building a bivvy is a very straightforward activity and can be done outside, or inside with cushions.

One of the missions involves imagining you’ve rediscovered a native moa in your backyard and proving your discovery to the world.

“We’ve had some amazing responses to that activity so far, there’s kind a of a disconcerting number of poo submissions."

In developing the project, Wark says they completed workshops with children across the country, and across various deciles.

The site, which was created through funding through NZ on Air and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, launched this month.

Ward says the main aim is to engage with digital natives on their own terms.

“We’ve been working on this project for over two years now so we’re just happy to boot it out of the nest.”