Remote learning has necessitated a reinvention of the way children learn and enabled us to rethink the environments where learning can take place. In March, when COVID-19 became recognized as a global pandemic, App Annie, a mobile and data analytics company, found that education app downloads skyrocketed 90% when compared against their average weekly downloads in the fourth quarter of 2019. In the peak of pandemic-induced quarantine, there was a large increase in coverage of educational activities and resources to help parents and children adapt to remote learning. This makes it clear that people are looking for ways to keep their children engaged in learning while they remain at home.
Many e-learning platforms rely on access to tablets or laptops, as well as strong Wi-Fi to broadcast video streams or even web pages. However, not all children have access to these tools. According to UNESCO, 43% of students across the world have no internet at home, putting them at a serious educational disadvantage. National Public Radio (NPR) states that 60% of the world’s population owns mobile phones. While this solution is far from perfect, as many students live in areas without mobile service, it should not be overlooked that many more students are able to use their phones for educational content.
Mobile apps can help fill in some of the gaps as parents and educators look to supplement children’s education. Educational apps like Extincts gamify learning by teaching children about endangered species through collecting artifact cards. Extincts donates 70% of all profits to conservation charities, which include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Orangutan Appeal U.K.(OAUK), World Wildlife Federation (WWF), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Extincts hopes to foster a new generation of animal protectors through digital experiences.
With so many things to learn about, it may seem like conservation is less of a priority. But, the current pandemic has underlined that our actions, or lack thereof, have a profound impact on the environment. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests numerous ways of tackling climate change to prevent future pandemics. Among these are deforestation prevention, which would slow biodiversity loss and decrease animal migrations that result in the spread of infectious diseases. Fostering an interest in animals is one way of teaching children about climate change and the importance of taking small steps to protect our planet. Not only that, but there is a world of weird and wonderful endangered species that make fascinating topics of exploration.
The kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot, serves as an excellent case study. Though they do not fly, they have strong legs that make them excellent hikers and climbers and have a sweet musty smell that helps them locate each other in forests. They are critically endangered due to deforestation and the introduction of invasive predators to their native habitats. It doesn’t help that they freeze when they encounter predators. Today there are around 213 surviving. The future of the kakapo may seem bleak due to its dwindling numbers, but there is hope. All remaining kakapos currently inhabit human and predator-free islands off New Zealand. Tracking chips, drones, and incubation technology are helping to increase kakapo numbers.
But why all the hubbub for one bird? Andrew Digby, a kakapo scientist for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, says “It’s a really good flagship species, a gateway species to get people into conservation and wildlife.” Greater interest and awareness can result in more advocacy for government and corporate policies that focus on lessening the effects of climate change. Making it clear that cultivating a curiosity towards wildlife through stories like the kakapo is one key to protecting our one and only planet.
The kakapo exemplifies that it isn’t too late to strive for change. Increasing awareness through education is just the first crucial step. Learning about conservation can be engaging, and Extincts seeks to prove that. Teaching children from an early age to be curious about the animals that populate the earth can help them have a greater respect for the environment and the way our actions have impact. Educational apps like Extincts have great potential for widening access to learning while keeping children engaged even as the pandemic continues to disrupt the status quo.
By Melanie Totenberg
Melanie Totenberg is a freelance writer who cares deeply about preserving and protecting the environment. She is a New Yorker with a passion for marketing, content, and communications.