Super hero idea for zoo visitors
Taronga Zoo has taken David Bowie's declaration that "we can be heroes, just for a day" to heart with the launch of a program aimed at enriching visits to the harbour site.
The Rainforest Heroes app for iPad was developed to focus on Asian species like the endangered fishing cat, that dives into water to catch its dinner, and the unusual tree-climbing Binturong.
Users can locate and learn about these elusive creatures, find out what they eat, give them a virtual feed of the animals' preferred zoo food and think about everyday actions that can help their conservation in the wild.
"Taronga's animals are ambassadors for their wild counterparts, many of which are under threat of extinction," said Paul Maguire, Taronga's manager of learning and experience.
"The Rainforest Heroes app allows us to increase the educational opportunities for students and visitors who are vital in the conservation of wildlife into the future."
The Taronga Zoo Learning Centre, in partnership with the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre set out to help improve the way visitors engaged with and learned about these rainforest animals.
When using the Rainforest Heroes app visitors can discover extra facts, use digital binoculars, photograph animals, watch short movies and compile their discoveries in a take-away PDF field report.
Mr Maguire said the PDF report that was emailed to the user when they finished was a powerful learning tool in the classroom or at home.
Users were guided through Taronga's Rainforest Trail using GPS along with supporting signs to help them build their report.
"Our trial included students from across Sydney and country New South Wales as well as adults and family groups," said Jo Woodrow, senior learning development officer, NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre.
"We gauged the impact the app had on focusing visitors on the animals as well as how it increased learning. The interaction between people when they discovered interesting information about the species was also important."
She said 93.3 per cent of trial students said they had a more enjoyable learning experience by using the app.
Teachers were impressed with the high level of engagement, which encouraged a greater depth of learning at each location, Ms Woodrow said.
The Rainforest Heroes app was not restricted to students and would enrich a visit for families and tourists alike.
The app is free from the App Store on iPad or at www.itunes.com/appstore.
Photo: They can be heroes ... Rowan and Jay using the app. Photos by Rod Cheal, Taronga Zoo