Wild Eyes: The website connecting Kiwi kids with the outdoors againby Sharon Stephenson
A website that creates “backyard missions” for Kiwi kids is dragging digital natives back outdoors.
“Unfortunately, children today don’t have the same exposure to nature,” says the father of Estella, nine, and Sylvie, seven. “Instead, these digital natives are often glued to their screens.”
Wanting to reconnect this young generation with the outside world – via a medium that they’re familiar with – Ward teamed up with film producer Vicky Pope (Two Little Boys and Gardening with Soul) to create Wild Eyes, a website that uses technology to help children aged eight to 12 get in touch with nature.
Wild Eyes requires users to complete interesting backyard missions, including building a bivouac, “discovering” an extinct moa and hosting a kawakawa tea party. Once a challenge is complete, the player uploads a photo to the website to earn online incentives and “likes” from other players.
“It’s all about interacting with kids on their own terms and mimicking the rewards from social media sites with a homegrown product,” says Ward.
Ward and Pope spent two years developing Wild Eyes, which cost around $400,000 and was funded with the help of NZ on Air, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Unlocking Curious Minds fund, and Unesco NZ. The website features video clips with local actors Nova Waretini-Hewison and Christian Dennison, the 14-year-old twin brother of actor Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
Ward, who spent almost two years working as a producer for the Discovery Channel in Los Angeles, says the response so far has been positive. “We’ve had more than 15,000 site visitors to date, which is really encouraging.”
Both Ward and Pope were particularly keen to engage the hard-to-reach demographic of Maori, Pacific Island and rural children, and they’ve worked hard to ensure all the missions are affordable and adaptable for both the home and classroom. Ward admits there’s also a future benefit to turning square eyes into wild eyes.
“As David Attenborough says, people will only protect what they care about and they’ll only care about what they’ve experienced,” he says. “Given so much of our lives are lived online, if we care about looking after our natural taonga, it’s important we provide compelling digital experiences that engage young Kiwis with nature.”
This was published in the October 2017 issue of North & South.
Auckland rapper JessB is making her mark in the male-dominated hip-hop scene with the release of her much-anticipated debut EP Bloom.Read more
Defence Minister Ron Mark is denying any inappropriate use of military aircraft after revelations he has used them to fly to and from home.Read more
Corrections says it will review its processes after it was discovered 11 sex offenders were living less than a kilometre away from an Auckland school.Read more
When he arrived here from Ireland in 1960, Rodney Walshe had nothing but a suit and the gift of the gab. They took him a long way.Read more
The nomadic New Zealander who’s set his sights on space travel is no longer an alien.Read more
The Anarchist jeweller has a remarkable show at new Te Papa gallery, Toi Art.Read more