Digital Dispatch: Biodiversity Quest in Chicago, Week #1

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 9:32 am


“I think it's that way,” says a girl in a puffy jacket to her group as she rushes towards one end of the blacktop. Across the blacktop other small groups of students are zigzagging from one side to the other. Each group has a captain that holds an iPhone in his/her hand. The girl’s group follows her, but once they reach their new location they see that their position, according to their GPS-enabled locator on the 7scenes map, is farther away from where they are supposed to be. “It must be that way! That's 73rd St!” says another girl pointing in the opposite direction, and they all head north.

These 6th and 7th grade students were participating in the first week of the Biodiversity Quest program at Bouchet Academy on the South Side of Chicago. This activity introduced them to the 7scenes app that they will be using to build scavenger hunt-like “mobile quests” at nearby Lincoln Park Zoo over the next eight weeks. Their facilitators built an example quest for them that asked them to travel from “continent” to “continent,” gathering photos and videos of endangered species. There was no real map of the continents for this example, but the students could see the points set by the facilitators on a map within the 7scenes app that they moved between. When they were in the vicinity of a point, a clue popped up and told them which “continent” they arrived at and what animal they were encountering along with a photo or video from the website. 

While playing this example quest was a learning experience, later in the week, the young participants were able to dig deeper into the 7scenes platform that was used to create it. Kara Carrell, their NLI facilitator walked them through a tutorial of the 7scenes website, the platform they will use to build their own quests in a few weeks. After the tutorial the students eagerly tinkered with the 7scenes site in pairs and practiced adding text and media, as well as placing points on the map that trigger the quests' clues. The students are gathering knowledge as they go along about what goes into making an engaging mobile experience. The 7scenes web-based platform allows them to incorporate what they learn about biodiversity and conservation with their developing geography and communication skills. None of these students have created a location-based mobile experience before, so they will have to work within the possibilities and constraints of the tools they are working with — in this case the smartphones, the 7scenes platform, and the ARKive website - to create a fun and informative quest for other young visitors to Lincoln Park Zoo.


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