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Get Kids Outside With the Agents of Discovery App

Tacoma Nature Center's interactive nature program includes new parks

Published on: April 02, 2020

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Photo:
View of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Titlow Park. Credit: Rylan Guerzon

Editor's note: Gov. Inslee's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, in effect now, designates getting outside for fresh air and exercise as an essential activity, as long as people practice social distancing from others outside their immediate families.

Tacoma Nature Center is making nature walks more engaging for South Sound-area kids and families with “missions” from an app called Agents of Discovery. Previously only available at the Tacoma Nature Center grounds, the program has expanded to include two new locations: Titlow Park and Swan Creek Park, both in Tacoma.

A couple of years ago, my family and I completed a mission at Tacoma Nature Center; more recently we tried out the mission at Titlow Park. Titlow Park and Swan Creek Park each feature one mission; missions at Tacoma Nature Center change seasonally.

Getting started

Here's how your family can play: First, download the free Agents of Discovery app on your phone — and any other phones belonging to family members who'll be joining the mission. Do this at home, before setting out. You will need wifi for the download and to create and verify your free account. You won’t be able to view the mission until you are at the park, so don’t worry if you can’t see it at home.

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Courtesy Tacoma Nature Center

Once at your chosen park, log in to the app (and make sure phone's sound and GPS are on). Select your mission and start following directions! Note: Once you're at a park location, you won't need wifi anymore.

At Titlow Park

We arrived at Titlow Park, opened the app to select our mission and started walking. We knew we were on the right path because as we walked, a blue dot on our screen moved along the trail with us. When we reached a challenging point in the mission, we heard a little chime and an icon popped up. We stopped to open up the challenge and answered the questions to earn points. Challenges consist of questions about identifying flora and fauna, about environmental responsibility and facts about the park itself.

The Titlow Park mission we were following led us along the Hidden Beach Trail, which is 1.3 miles long (get the trail map here). The path loops through a forested area, along the beach, across a bridge over the railroad, past a lagoon, a huge grassy area and the kids’ play area (the play area is currently closed).

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Titlow Park map. Credit: Rylan Guerzon

Nature views

We enjoyed all of the scenery but the water view was especially beautiful. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is clearly visible in the distance and we also saw sailboats and kayaks out on the sparkling water. There are several trail offshoots for going down to the water's edge for a closer look. In our mission, several of the challenges helped us learn about and identify seabirds. Another challenge we attempted was swiping on our screen to see if could catch fish as well as an osprey. (Uh, not quite!)

More challenges

In the forested area of the park, some of the challenges included learning how to identify the call of a chickadee by listening to audio recordings of bird calls. In another one, we were prompted to find a Madrone tree and touch it to compare its temperature to that of other trees. Fun fact: The Madrone tree is called the refrigerator tree because it is cool to the touch.

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Walking in Titlow Park. Credit: Rylan Guerzon

My entire family enjoyed this nature outing, even my older kids. We liked the scenery and found the birds really interesting. The challenges were varied and included games and coloring, as well as questions that engaged the senses with sound, sight and touch.

A family could easily spend several hours at this park. There's lots to explore along the rocky beach and many places to stop for a picnic, before or after completing an Agents of Discovery mission. And on a future visit, families will be able to play on the playground again.

If you go...

Find Agents of Discovery missions at:

  • Titlow Park, 8425 6th Avenue in Tacoma
  • Swan Creek Park, 1801 E. 56th Street in Tacoma
  • Tacoma Nature Center, 1919 S. Tyler Street in Tacoma (Note: The Tacoma Nature Center building and parking lot are currently closed; the grounds are open.)

Upcoming Tacoma Nature Center missions:

  • April 1–30: Earth Day Special
  • May 1–June 30: Sense the Spring
  • July 1–Aug. 31: Savor the Summer
  • Sept. 1–Nov. 30: Fly into Fall

More tips on doing the mission in Titlow Park: 

  • Leashed dogs are welcome.
  • Sturdy strollers should be able to navigate the paths the missions follow.
  • There is a Steamers restaurant on the trail and also a large grassy area for a picnic or game of Frisbee.
  • Park restrooms and the playground are both closed. Titlow Park has a seasonal sprayground, too, that will hopefully be open this summer.
  • Remember to follow social distancing guidelines at this park and all outdoor spaces.

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