George Lucas Educational Foundation
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One of my favorite parts about the summer is having more time to spend outdoors. Growing up in the northeast, I definitely treasured the increase in temperature and extra hours to play in the sun. If you find that your children are spending time inside glued to their tablets, they might be surprised to discover that there are plenty of apps to encourage -- and require -- students to get moving outdoors. Here's a list of iPad apps that children can use to explore on their next adventure.

Bird Guide for kids (Free; includes in-app purchases)

This interactive bird guide is perfect for children looking to explore their natural world. Whether they take their iPad with them on their next outdoor adventure or simply study the pictures and sounds of different birds, this app will definitely come in handy. It includes high-quality images as well of descriptions of different birds.

National Parks by National Geographic (Free; includes in-app purchases)

If you're visiting a national park this summer, this app from National Geographic is a must-have. In addition to the beautiful pictures that accompany each park guide, there is tons of information from "Park Secrets" to "What to See." This is a fantastic app for families planning an outdoor adventure.

Compass (Free)

This easy-to-use app is a great tool for students exploring the outdoors. You can teach kids navigation skills or how to follow a trail map, or simply give them an opportunity to practice using a not-so-obsolete tool. There are a few different compasses to choose from in the App Store and this one is very straightforward.

iPhoto ($4.99)

Children with access to a tablet can definitely bring it with them outdoors. Snapping pictures is easy to do with the camera on the iPad, and iPhoto helps kids take it to the next level. With this app, they can organize their photos, create posters, and even design a layout for their very own picture book.

Trees PRO HD - Nature Mobile (Free; includes in-app purchases)

For students looking to gather more information on the trees in their local park or their own backyard, Trees PRO HD is a great iPad app for the outdoors. Kids can look up tons of information, see beautiful pictures, and learn about trees from around the world. This app is a great companion for an outdoor adventure and even has a quiz for kids to test their knowledge.

Pines to Vines - The Forest Biome ($9.99)

This amazing reading app is full of so much information on the outdoors. It's a perfect choice for kids getting ready for an adventure or for those who simply want to learn more about this biome. Pines to Vines has leveled reading passages, making it a great app for families with kids at different reading levels or mixed-ability classrooms. It's easy to navigate and has engaging interactive features.

How to Tie Knots 3D ($1.99)

Children getting ready for a camping trip or just playing outside can practice tying knots with the help of this practical app. Students can learn the steps for making 40 different knots. The clear diagrams include animation demonstrating the right way for making a timber hitch, bowline knot, and more.

Have you used an iPad during an outdoor adventure? Share your favorite apps and experiences below!

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Kevin Adams's picture

Some type of geocaching app to hide and discover secret treasures is a great way to integrate the compass and also critical thinking skills.

These technological scavenger hunts challenge all learning styles through discovery, observation, analysis, experimentation, and reflection.

Jessica's picture

Depending on the age of the students, the new BirdSnap app, created by the same Columbia U team that made LeafSnap, is a great free tool. Along with their visual recognition software that identifies the species in kids' photos of birds, there is explicit training in identifying birds and up-to-the minute info on species migration in your area. And tons of gorgeous photos arranged by species and birdsong. Fun stuff.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Augmented reality space apps like night sky are fantastic apps.

"Meteor Counter" was a great app I used with my kids to gather data for NASA during meteor showers but it looks as if the app hasn't been updated in two years so I am not sure it's live data collection. Either way it is attaching opportunity for children on how to collect data.

Routes is an app I use to track my exercise runs. Kids could create bike routes in their neighborhood and then figure out how far they rode. Maps and math...a winning combination.

During the winter SnoCountry to figure out when and where to ski.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Seconding what Kevin said. A lot of our community on Facebook recommended Geocaching apps as a great way to create an outdoor adventure. One person commented that the app is from Groundspeak. There's a free intro version or a $10 full version.

Here's the android version:

And here's the apple version:

Another person recommended an app called radar24 "that shows you planes in the sky, where they came from, where they are going, elevation, speed, etc. There is a even a simulation of the view from the cockpit. Fun to do at a park near an airport to see where all the plans are coming in from."

Last recommendation: letterboxing - box radar:

It's an android app that "for letterboxers on the go. The radar display shows nearby boxes, allows you to view clues, and even allows you to log your finds from your mobile device. Clues are saved on the device so that you can view them even when you don't have network service."

Hope these recommendations help and check out the Facebook conversation if you'd like to see any more:

JGreene's picture

Using the Ipad for educational outdoor use is one of the greatest things about technology! Children now have instant access to their questions about insects, animals and geographic features as they explore at the touch of their finger. Ipad has a scavenger hunt for kids app that allows them to hunt and discover the outdoors. It is so much fun! My son used the app on a Boy Scout adventure and he could not stop talking about it. Kids are so lucky that they have the technology of today!

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