Category Archives: Kids & Family

Wetland Video Games

In my search for news about wetlands, I often come across blogs and internet posts about wetland-themed video games. As a kid, our family did not have a computer until I was 14 and it was an used Commodore 64. It had very few programs. I used it to type school papers and my mother wrote articles for the local paper on it. My brother, Tad, got a copy of the 1980s video game, Frogger, in which players control the path of individual frogs (see over busy roads and through a wetland habitat full of predators, e.g. snakes, crocodiles, otters—and safely guide each frog home. Along the way, players must help the frog(s) catch bugs to eat, or escort a “lady frog” for bonus points. Since the ‘80s, there have been several spin-off games, including “Swampy’s Revenge.” I wasn’t very good at using the joystick (moving it sideways through the air doesn’t work or calling out, “look out for the crocodile!” does simply no good. Froggie dies. I was much better at dealing with real live frogs, rather than the virtual kind. For those curious about other wetland-themed video games, check out World of Warcraft: Conquer the Wetlands (for map, see this.) In this game, players fight giant fire-breathing salamanders instead of dragons). Or, a video game possibly based on the British comic character, “Master of the Marsh,” a muscle-bound hermit of the Fens, (for his skills, see this page.) including using “swampy terrain to his advantage over his enemies.”) In the 1995 video game, Wetlands, players act as an underwater/undercover agent and move through a “waterworld,” and shoot their enemies. Why? Because that’s the whole point of first-person shooter video games. Shoot ‘em. Kids not interested in shooter games can still play in a “virtual nature” in many other games, such as “Harvest Moon: Back to Nature” (see this post) in which players plant seeds, build a farm and “search for a mate.” Despite the mate search, it is rated “E” for everyone. That’s strange to me.

Meanwhile, visitation in national parks is still on the decline. Are kids more interested in playing in a virtual wetland, or video game version of “nature” than in a real national park or even their backyard? This article from a few years ago captures this question perfectly: “Nature Vs Nintendo: Video Games or National Parks” (May 2006)

Update: National Geographic “Hooked Reel ‘Em In Game” allows a player to fish in the Amazon, the Mekong River and Deep Seas. Challenging! It took me 20 min to catch a fish, then couldn’t reel it in fast enough, or the line broke. Have patience.

Update: 3/2011 – I had fun playing a new video game by Kinnect Adventures for XBox 360 in which I rode a raft through the rapids, streams and rivers, down waterfalls and jumped over obstacles along the way. In another aspect of the same game, I fixed leaks in a tank as marine life swam around me and hammerhead sharks tried to break in. Lots of fun with realistic aquatic effects. What’s unique about it is that it takes snapshots of your performance along the way! It doesn’t capture the most flattering expressions as you maneuver through tight spots and attempt to make it through obstacles.

Scavenger Hunts and Geo-Adventures

As a kid, I loved scavenger hunts. I was so gung-ho about them, I wrote riddles on scraps of paper, hid them throughout the woods in the backyard, then waited a few days to give myself time to forget the hiding places, and then went out and pretended to be on a treasure hunt. Nowadays, families have updated the traditional scavenger hunt: the geocache adventure. Families and friends can go out with hand-held GPS units and discover hidden treasures at the correct coordinates. It’s the perfect blend of mystery and technology! In Delaware, this weekend, families and friends can go out on geocaching adventures in a wetland to celebrate American Wetlands Month.

On Saturday, families are invited to take part in a Geocache Adventure put on by DNREC’s Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve. What’s a geocache adventure? Good question. “It’s a technologically advanced scavenger hunt,” said education coordinator Jennifer Holmes. Families will use handheld GPS units to find hidden treasures throughout Kent County that are related to Delaware’s wetlands. No experience is necessary.

Scouts Earn Wetland Merit Badges

When I was a girl scout, my grandmother sometimes led my troop on field trips into the woods and wetlands in midcoast Maine. She taught us how to make “sit-upons,” which consisted of a stack of newspapers inside a trash bag; the sit-upons kept our butts from getting wet when we sat (inevitably) on the wet ground to hear Gramma talk about the wonder of nature, and all about her experiences as a girl scout. But most of my scout troop’s patches concerned arts & crafts and community service, not nature. I don’t recall ever earning a nature badge, although I spent most of my time outside, learning about wildlife and conservation, playing in creeks or building fairy houses in the roots of trees. My brother was a boy scout. I recall that he earned outdoorsy badges.

Today’s Boy Scouts strive to earn badges for projects they do in wetlands. For example, boys can restore a wetland, study birds, learn about conservation, study forestry or insects, etc. in order to earn an Environmental Science badge, Fish & Wildlife Management badge, Soil & Water Conservation badge, Bird Study badge, or for their final Eagle Scout project.

These New Hampshire boys earned their badges by building a bridge in wetlands: These Southwestern boy scouts worked on a river restoration project:
 This boy completed an Eagle Scout project,blazing a trail to provide public access to a wetland in Alabama:
In Iowa, local scouts teamed up to work on wetland projects:

Since I was a girl scout, many new patches have been created. Girls can earn a Water Drop Patch by learning about watersheds, water quality and completing a related project.

Everett Scout is an all-around golden girl