Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Volunteers use the iNaturalist app to document wildlife in local parks and greenspaces for City Nature Challenge. Here they are at Swan Creek Park. (Photo: Katie Cotterill / Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium)

How your family can join the City Nature Challenge

Nature and technology combine in City Nature Challenge for a unique learning experience April 28-May 7.

It’s time to start thinking about the annual City Nature Challenge, a worldwide event with a local focus. The Challenge runs April 28 – May 1, but the first orientation is March 14th (for educators).

Help the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area (including Everett, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and any place within Snohomish, King and Pierce counties) show the world how biodiverse our region is by making observations of local species during the Challenge period.  Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and Woodland Park Zoo are encouraging people of all ages to participate.

The Challenge is a fun opportunity for kids to get outside, be a scientist and contribute to a valuable conservation project. And don’t worry, the app used to photograph and record your observations is very user-friendly!

Here’s how the City Nature Challenge works:

Step 1: Download the app

There’s a free app called iNaturalist that can be downloaded onto a PC or portable device to track what you see. Observations can be made anytime, but to count toward the City Nature Challenge, they have to be recorded from April 28-May 1.

Step 2: Attend a free, online orientation (optional)

Free, online orientations for this year’s City Nature Challenge are set for March 14, April 4, and April 25. Educators, outdoor group leaders, and land managers are invited to join an orientation on March 14. Teens are invited to an orientation on April 4. An orientation for individuals and families is set for April 25
At these free, fun, and informative virtual sessions, the Sea-Tac City Nature Challenge planning team will share background on the global event, tips for using the iNaturalist app to participate, and fun stories of past events to get everyone ready for this year’s City Nature Challenge which runs from April 28 – May 1.

You’ll also learn how to join our local City Nature Challenge.


Step 3: Start snapping photos

Once you have the app, watched an orientation, and joined the local challenge, start snapping photos of wild plants, animals, and fungi that you see. If you can identify the species, do so. Otherwise, the app’s artificial intelligence can make suggestions for you. Record your location, time, and date.

Step 4: Identify Observations

Then, anytime through May 7, participants are invited to go in and identify observations – their own or others. Each observation needs two identifications to be verified. Individuals can also participate online only by helping to identify the nature observations of others.

“It’s easy and fun, and it’s something your whole family can take part in,” said Katie Remine, Living Northwest Program Coordinator at Woodland Park Zoo.

Added Zach Hawn, conservation engagement coordinator at Point Defiance: “We are surrounded by native wildlife and it’s incredible learning about it if we just stop and take the time to observe.”

The data is used to help scientists understand how our regional wildlife is faring, and how to protect it. And it’s also a chance to make our mark on the world: Every year the region with the most observations is highlighted on the app’s homepage, as well as the individual with the most unusual species spotting.

Orientation Schedule and Registration:

Orientation for Educators and Outdoor Group Leaders:
Tuesday, March 14, 2023, 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. Register

Orientation for Teens:
Tuesday, April 4, 2023, 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Register

Orientation for Individuals and Families:
Tuesday, April 25, 2023, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Register


More ways to enjoy and explore nature:

6 ways your kids can enjoy nature in Seattle’s Seward Park

14 animals you can spot in your own backyard

Spiders are perfect for studying! How to get started




About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.