About us

About us

Wild for WilderQuest: tech savvy kids embrace nature

Did you know that only one in three Aussie kids plays outside every day? This 21st century phenomenon has led to what some term 'nature-deficit disorder', when identifying the prevalence of screens in kids' leisure time. In April 2012, OEH launched the WilderQuest program to address the barriers that kids face when it comes to getting off the couch and heading outside.

WilderQuest was inspired by Richard Louv's best-selling book Last Child in the Woods, which addresses the growing divide between children and nature due to increased time indoors. Louv argues that early experiences in nature lead to conservation values, and decreased risk of depression, obesity and attention disorders.

The program takes its cue from Louv, acknowledging that screen based technologies compete with nature time, so it meets kids where they are: in the digital realm. By bridging digital and real-world nature experiences, WilderQuest works to inspire children to spend more time outdoors and develop a life-long love of nature.

Designing WilderQuest

Child with screenDesigned using a combination of digital and real-life encounters, the program includes an online game starring Ranger Sam and his sidekick Pug, accessed through a website or iPad app. A calendar of school holiday activities in NSW national parks compliments the iPad app and online games, allowing children and families to experience national parks in a fun and educational way.

A roving WilderQuest stand promotes WilderQuest Discovery activities and family visits to national parks across the state. An online portal for teachers to incorporate WilderQuest activities into their curriculum is also in development.

Kids can explore different digital, virtual environments through interactive games and challenges, and then follow the incentives to go outdoors, including NPWS school holiday activities.

The program design moves kids through the steps of environmental awareness, engagement and action to create habitual change and ultimately towards achieving a stewardship of nature.

Developing WilderQuest

Wilderquest rangerThe development of WilderQuest has been a collaborative effort incorporating ongoing consultation with external stakeholders including children, user experience specialists, researchers, the Department of Education and Communities, teachers, developers and an Aboriginal Advisory panel.

Audience testing during the research and design process gave the opportunity to incorporate children's, parents' and teachers' insights into the program. For example, during concept design- the main character in WilderQuest: 'Ranger Sam' was developed because children thought that a character their own age would not survive as well in nature as an older character. Children wanted to go on adventures and felt more supported with older kids around, which was corroborated by research experts observing that children over six tend to aspire upwards to older siblings and teens.

WilderQuest is a multi-award winning program. In 2013 alone it won 10 industry awards including best education at the Australian Mobile Awards, and best of the best at the Australian Interactive Media Industry Awards. It was a hit at the 2014 IUCN World Park Congress, where environmental ambassadors from around the world celebrated the innovative approach to motivating kids to get off the couch and go outside.

Getting everyone involved

Children with park rangerWilderQuest can only work with public participation. People can participate by registering and playing on the website, iPad app, education portal or opting to receive e-newsletters. Anyone is able to participate and share their experience by becoming testers, completing a survey or using the online feedback form. They can also help spread the word by posting/following tour, event or park information on social media pages. Feedback helps us improve the program and we are very appreciative for the feedback our users have taken the time to send us.

Engagement is monitored by usage analytics and matched to park visitation. These insights are incorporated into the project, creating a feedback loop with our users.

Page last updated: 13 July 2015