In Partnership with New IMAX Film BACKYARD WILDERNESS, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios Offers Free Apps, Exhibits, and Kits for Kids, Families and Teachers and Communities to Explore the Wildlife in Their Own Backyards

WASHINGTON, DC ( April 17, 2018) — The average American child spends more than seven hours a day looking at a screen, and can identify more than 300 commercial brands but only five native species where they live. To counter that trend, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios has developed an immersive national outreach initiative to help get kids and families outdoors observing the animals, plants and habitats around them. Tied to the release of the 3D IMAX film, BACKYARD WILDERNESS, and launching in advance of Earth Day on April 22nd, the effort aims to give kids the skills and tools they need to become active citizen scientists. The campaign includes a scavenger hunt library exhibit that highlights how to spot wildlife, SEEK—a family-friendly new app that helps kids identify and “collect” wild plants and animals; toolkits to host “bioblitz” citizen science observation events; and educational resources for parents and educators to help them get kids outside and exploring. “Our goal is to inspire kids—no matter where they live—to get out and observe the amazing creatures that are just outside their homes,” says Executive Director of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios Sean B. Carroll, “Kids are natural born scientists, and we hope our film, app and activities will inspire them and provide them with fun tools to engage their curiosity and explore nature.”

Initiative Overview:

The “Explore Your Backyard Wilderness” initiative will bring excitement about nature to science museums, libraries, classrooms and families through an engaging suite of materials and tools created by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and the California Academy of Sciences. Those elements include:

Library and Museum Exhibits

At the core of the campaign are beautiful pop-up exhibits that will be offered for free to libraries and museums nationwide. In an engaging and visual way, the exhibits invite children to go on a scavenger hunt right there on the spot, and to absorb the basics of scientific exploration and observation. They feature stunning artwork, tips about how to explore, and irresistible interactive “telescopes” to spy on the animals hidden in the exhibit.

Bioblitz Activities

Partners will also be provided with resources and training to hold local bioblitzes—outdoor events where groups observe nature and count plants and animals living in their communities. The events are powered by iNaturalist—the global citizen science app powered by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic—that inspires users around the world to add their observations to a research-quality database used by naturalists and scientists.

SEEK, by iNaturalist

For younger kids not quite ready to engage with iNaturalist, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and the Academy introduced SEEK, a new family-friendly scavenger hunt app that has been called “Shazam for nature” by the Earth-loving blog site Earther. The app makes exploring the natural world fun, safe and rewarding—showing kids the wild plant and animal species they are most likely to find in their area, then sending them off on treasure hunts to virtually “collect” the species by taking photos of them, and earning badges for doing so. The app is kid-safe and COPPA-compliant—it does not require registration and does not collect data about the child or their location.

At launch, SEEK was the #2 downloaded app in the U.S. for kids 9-11, and #1 in 27 other countries. It uses artificial intelligence to identify species from photos, and provides interesting info about the wild creatures kids encounter, including their names and descriptions, when they’re easiest to find, and how many other iNaturalist sightings there have been in the area and around the world. It’s the gateway app to a lifetime of engagement with nature.

Family Activity & Educator Guides HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and the Academy’s education staff created a set of free and fun family activity guides and materials (insect observations, nature walks, local species guides, and parent/guardian “cheat sheets”) to help families explore and enjoy the outdoors together. And for 3rd – 8th grade teachers, educator guides use the natural world to teach observation skills, problem-solving, experimentation and basic ecology and field science. The guides are tied to NGSS standards, and designed to be equally useful in urban, suburban or rural schools.

All of the materials are free, and can be downloaded from the BACKYARD WILDERNESS film website, which also has information about where to see the film:



Created by Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmakers Andrew Young and Susan Todd, BACKYARD WILDERNESS takes viewers on a surprising and spectacular journey to discover the unexpected natural wonders that lie right outside our doors. The film follows young Katie and her family, living in a house at the edge of the woods. Absorbed by digital screens, electronics, and their busy modern lives, they’re blind to the real-life spectacle unfolding all around them. Until, that is, a school project sends Katie outdoors, and sparks her gradual discovery of a whole new world that had previously gone unnoticed. We experience her joy and wonder as her backyard comes alive—wood ducklings diving out of trees, a mouse running through the house, salamanders dodging traffic, and coyote pups learning how to hunt.

BACKYARD WILDERNESS reveals Katie’s wild neighbors in rare and breathtaking intimacy, with stunning 3D imagery captured by high-speed and time-lapse cameras mounted inside dens and nests, and sliding along the forest floor and pond bottom. The film highlights how unexpectedly exotic our own backyards can be—providing vivid proof that Wi-Fi is not the only connection that matters.

About HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

HHMI Tangled Bank Studios is a production company established and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as an extension of its longstanding science education mission. Dedicated to the creation of original science documentaries for broadcast, theatrical and digital distribution, the company’s award-winning programs address important contemporary issues and capture compelling stories of discovery across all branches of scientific inquiry. For more information, please visit Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. HHMI is a science philanthropy whose mission is to advance basic biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity. The institute is the largest private supporter of science education in the country.

About California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one living roof.

About SK Films

SK Films is an award-winning content provider and a global leader in the IMAX® /Giant Screen industry. SK works across various genres and platforms, including theatrical, television and digital media, with a special emphasis on creating high impact natural history and science related content. SK has a reputation as one of the most accomplished and respected producers and distributors supplying 3D, 2D and Dome product to IMAX and other Giant Screen theatres worldwide, with a mission to entertain and inspire audiences and immerse them in the awe and wonder of the world we live in. For more information, please visit

About Arise Media / Archipelago Films

Archipelago Films is a production company created by Academy Award-nominated, EmmyAward-winning filmmakers Susan Todd and Andrew Young. Arise Media is the non-profit they formed to make innovative media about the most urgent social and environmental challenges facing the planet, and to inspire a new appreciation for our own interconnected role in nature. With a well-established track record of directing, producing and filming, for television, theatrical and now 3D IMAX® /Giant Screens, Archipelago and Arise aim to bring passionate and entertaining films to global audiences through the highest quality visual storytelling. For more information, please visit,

Media Contacts:

Boutique Publicity:


Ariana Swan:

Risa Chapnick:

HHMI Tangled Bank Studios: 

Anna Irwin, Director of Communications, 301-215-8861,

California Academy of Sciences:

Haley Bowling, Communications Manager, (415) 379-5123,