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21 Jul 2021

Citizen science in lockdown

“Here we go again”, Ollie thought when he opened his laptop for another online session with his class teacher. “BORING!”.

While Ollie understands that this is how he must learn for a while, he misses other types of learning, more interactive and hands-on learning. He always loved the days when they would get outside of the classroom and go on field trips and excursions. That is what he wanted to do more of. 

Fortunately, Ollie lived near Centennial Park in Sydney and his parents loved getting out as much as he did. “Right,” his Dad said, “Enough of looking at screens! Let’s go and see how many different birds, insects and other animals we can see and take photos of while we’re out?”

“That’s a great idea,” Ollie said “Can we do a bug hunt?” he added as he grabbed his bug pot.


Taking a break from screens and going for a walk/adventure outside is great for learning, is exercise and is important for mental health. Adding a bug hunt can make it even more fun. It doesn’t have to be at Centennial Park, it can be in your backyard or a local park and if you are not sure what to do we have you covered with all the tips, tricks and tools you need to go on a bug hunt with your child.

Now back to Ollie….

Ollie had a great time foraging for bugs and now with his pot full, he wasn’t quite ready to go home yet. He wanted to take time to reflect and also just enjoy being in the park. He said to his Dad “Why don’t we sit down very still and see who comes past us?”


By sitting perfectly still in the outdoors for a moment, it is amazing what you find and what animals may come close to you. Use all your senses and discuss with your child afterwards as to what they could see, hear, smell and feel - play your very own Stop and Spot game.

His Dad held his fingers to his lips and Ollie immediately fell silent and concentrated on staying perfectly still. Nothing happened at first, but then a magpie landed close by and starting pecking in the dirt looking for worms. He also saw lots of other birds - rainbow lorikeets, and a cockatoo which had a strange yellow plastic thing with a number on it attached to its wing. Ollie wondered what it was there for. He made a mental note to ask his Mum about it when he got home. 

When they got home, Ollie remembered something else his teacher had told him about. Citizen Science. With his Dad’s help, he found the app QuestaGame (kind of like pokemon go!) where you could collect pictures of plants and animals. Ollie and his Dad spent time uploading their pictures and detailing where they had found the animals. They relived the walk virtually and it was fun remembering they had seen a steel blue ladybug, a leopard slug and an assassin bug.

His Mum helped him look up some information on the weird yellow thing on the cockatoo’s wing - turns out it had been tagged as part of a research program to see where certain birds (including cockatoos, ibises and bush turkeys) were going. It had an app too – Big City Birds – where Ollie entered his cockatoo sighting that day. By adding in the detail they found out the bird’s name was Wally, which Ollie loved. Now he had made that connection, he resolved to look out for Wally and his friends whenever he went back to Centennial Park. Ollie asked his Mum “Can we go and try to find more birds with wingtags [Big City Birds] tomorrow? I can add them to the app too". His mother smiled and hugged him. 

That night Ollie went to bed feeling tired but happy and had the best sleep. He woke up in the morning feeling better about doing school on his laptop because he knew after that he would get to go back to the park and find Wally or some other birds for his new app. 

What can Citizen Science achieve? 

Going for a walk and recording animal sightings is a great way for your child to combine their interest in technology and the outdoors and contribute positively to science at the same time. Questagame, iNaturalist and Big City Birds are great ways to get your child interested in the world around them. Together we can take an interest and make a difference in the natural world around us.

Download the apps today through your app or play store or use the links below:

Discover more about our Nature Play philosophy in Centennial Park, and if you need help or guidance, please email our Education team.

Don’t forget to check back in each week for other inspirational at-home learning ideas for your child to help see you through lockdown.
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