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New App Helps Parkgoers Interact With Northeast Ohio's Trails


A new  app is launching Wednesday that provides an interactive guide for visitors to Northeast Ohio’s parks. 

The phone app helps people learn more about what they’re seeing, and as WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports, offers a chance to take part in research projects.

It’s called ParkApps Northeast Ohio – a collaboration between Kent State University, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland Metroparks.

The app, developed at Kent State with a nearly $1 million National Science Foundation grant, looks to bring the self-directed learning experience of museums and science centers to the great outdoors.

It has maps of the trails, marks more than 250 points of interest, and guides hikers through five interactive Adventure Tracks.

Rick Ferdig is an educational psychologist at Kent State University and leader of the team that developed ParkApps Northeast Ohio.

Team leader Rick Ferdig, an educational psychologist at Kent State, says the app allows him to study how people learn outdoors as opposed to inside museums or science centers that have Wi-fi and placards.

“What is the feasibility of doing this in a park where you might not have those things," says Ferdig, "and in that type of environment how can you improve people’s understanding of science and even seeing themselves as scientists.”

 Ferdig says a soon-to-be-added function uses crowd-sourced input to identify unknown plants and animals.

“If you’re walking in the park and you see something and you have no idea what it is, you can take a picture of it, and it will go into a categorization scheme and people can login and help identify what this is.”

Ferdig says an update planned for the fall will also allow park visitors to join citizen-science projects.

ParkApps is currently available only for iPhones in the APP STORE and online at ParkApps.kent.edu.

Jeff is your average chemist turned radio host and reporter. He currently hosts middays on WKSU and has reported extensively on science, politics, business, and the environment.