Friday, July 22, 2016

Gonna Catch EE? Augmented Reality Games and Environmental Education

Pokemon Go has really taken off, but how are North Carolina's parks, gardens, forests, trails, zoos, aquariums, nature centers, museums and other outdoor sites for exploration reacting to this new phenomenon?

Probably like many others in environmental education and related fields, we had not heard that much about Pokemon Go until a few weeks ago. Then suddenly we were scrambling to learn more about it and how it may affect educational facilities and programs.
It all started on July 8th with a #NCNatureFriday tweet about the N.C. Museum of Art Park. We had no idea what a Pokestop was...So we looked it up and thought, "Hmmm, what effect will this game have on nature centers, parks, science museums and environmental education programs?" Will it be the next geocaching?" We had no idea it would catch on so quickly.

The following Monday, probably half or more of the Tweets in our feed were about Pokemon Go. And it didn't take parks, museums, gardens, nature centers and other sites associated with environmental education and outdoor exploration to recognize the potential of, or at least the need to address, the new phenomenon.

Many sites are trying to work with the Pokemon Go craze in positive ways - keeping within their mission and combining the interest in the game with connections to real nature. But of course, there are the obvious concerns of even more technology coming between individuals and the natural world. Also, what will be the impact of visitors coming to parks, nature centers, and other outdoor educational venues to play the game?

We wanted some perspectives on the game from some North Carolina venues, so we did an informal survey of North Carolina environmental education centers (which includes parks, museums, botanical gardens, etc).

Read our storify to find out more about how the Pokemon Go phenomenon emerged in North Carolina (from an environmental education perspective), to learn more about how it and other augmented reality games may impact environmental education and to see how environmental education centers feel about this new reality. 

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