These days, I am obsessed with a new app called iNaturalist. It is free in the app store on your phone. You can take a picture of anything in the natural world and it will tell you what it is. I do not know the names of all the plants or insects in my neighborhood. If we find a turtle in our backyard, I cannot tell if it is a box turtle or any other type.
So many times, I have taken the kids on a “nature walk” but I could not help them identify much beyond Black-Eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s Lace, and oak trees. It worked when they were younger. I feel we need to learn more.
Science app to the rescue
Now I take a picture of every flower, shrub, acorn, or seed on the ground. Then, I upload it into my app and hit “See suggestions.”
Most of the time, the app knows what it is. If it does not, it says, “We are not sure, but we think this is …” and it gives you a few suggestions. At least they give you a hint and then you can go online with their hints and compare some more until you find the right species.
In the Western world, children do not spend enough time outside. I make an effort to schedule a nature walk almost every day with my children so that we can get the benefits of fresh air, sunlight, nature, and conversations. This app has helped make it even more educational, as we identify plants and insects.
The other day my son picked up a dead bee. Or was it a wasp? We could not tell. I took a picture of it and iNaturalist said it was a yellowjacket. This is why I need this app. When one is weak in an area, one needs tools to strengthen what remains.