August 2013
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: New 4-H iPad App Takes Alabama Young People into the Wild

  District 11 is an exciting adventure game designed to teach young people ages 9-12 about some of the fundamentals of life in the outdoors. It is a free resource available from the Apple app store and can be played on the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.

Alabama young people have been given a dangerous and exciting challenge. They must go deep into the woods – and survive. They must use their wits and their training. They must be ready to face wild animals – eat or be eaten. They must be prepared with wisdom and creativity so they can obtain warmth and water. There is always the risk of life-threatening wounds and hunger.

Can they do it? Could YOU?

Okay, so the wilderness is a virtual wilderness that must be reached through an iPad or iPhone – with dramatic music playing in the background. However, the training and the knowledge acquired are designed to be authentic. They are all part of the world of District 11, the latest high-tech educational resource developed by Alabama 4-H. Every aspect of the wilderness experience is drawn straight out of 4-H’s university-based learning. It matches what a young person might learn through the hands-on experiences of a 4-H club.

Obviously, a true backwoods experience is not available to most Alabama children. However, the knowledge of mammals, firearms safety, first aid and wilderness survival has value far beyond the Sipsey Wilderness or Yellowstone. A child’s fundamental instruction in how to respond to a medical emergency can be useful anytime and anywhere. And any young person can benefit from the lessons of problem-solving and planning – especially when they are having fun while learning.

According to Kimberly Graham, Alabama 4-H technical specialist, the District 11 app grew out of a very special need.

"We wanted to have a means of reaching young people who might not be familiar with 4-H. Like our oldest traditions, we are taking 4-H and the university to young people and educating them in a way they can understand and appreciate," Graham explained.

Obviously, technology is the resource of choice.

"An iPad or iPad app represents something kids use every day," Graham said. "It’s part of their lives – and they pick it up almost intuitively, without a second thought. We started looking at popular culture to find a story line and characters who would appeal to real kids."

Inspired by the popular Hunger Games books and movies, the staff of Alabama 4-H developed District 11 with a plot matching what 4-H values and teaches. There is a deadly disease striking down many of the district’s citizens. Youth are charged with venturing into wild places to seek the cure. However, they must first be fully trained and prepared to face the dangers of the wilderness. Gideon, the mentor, teaches them the ways of the back country. They are frequently tested on what they have learned.

Skills which the app teaches are some of the same skills required by any real-world explorer and adventurer: Weapons, Beasts, Caring for Wounds and the Skills of Survival. Many of these are drawn directly from popular hands-on 4-H programs such as the Skins ’n Skulls program that teach youth about mammals as quarry and predators.

To shore up the reality of the app, each section of District 11 is built around video footage of real Alabama 4-H club members who speak knowledgably on such topics as effective archery and shotgun safety. These young people serve as de facto mentors for younger kids. As with all of 4-H, their age-appropriate instruction is based on university knowledge and good science.

The free District 11 app is designed for kids ages 9-12. It can be played on an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. You can find it by going to the Apple app store and searching for District 11. The app was produced and funded by the Alabama 4-H Foundation, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama 4-H.

So, are you ready to take the challenge? Pick up your iPhone and head into the wilderness of District 11!

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.