We’ve been talking for some time about making an iPad app inspired by Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I started thinking seriously about making an app after attending a session at this year’s National Science Teachers Association Convention. (Read about my time at the NSTA here.) Richard made a start on an app that would run on an iPhone, but we weren’t convinced that it was working. We have had a few conversations with our editors at Boyds Mills Press, both Andy Boyles, editor for science titles, and Mary Alice Moore, editorial director. They had good questions that helped us re-think our approach. Some were: Are we making an app just because we can? or, put another way, Is there something about the platform (iPhone, iPad, or other tablet) that would let us do something different than the book offers? Who will buy the app? Who will use the app? Do you see it as a substitute for the book? If a person owns the book, would they also want to buy the app?
After thinking about these questions, we put the app for the iPhone on hold. We decided we thought the larger format of the iPad (or other tablet) would provide a better tableau for our content. We put the Wolfsnail project on the back burner while we finished the Fibonacci Folding Book Project app. It is a free app that contains a full-fledged lesson plan for a multi-disciplinary unit that works well with our book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. (Read about that app here.)
About a month ago, Richard hit upon a good idea. We have decided to create entirely new visual content — in video. Rather than try to “animate” the photographs somehow, we are shooting video of every scene and action in the book. Luckily, I found a snail earlier this autumn (October 17 – thanks FB). We figured we’d have to do our video capture indoors so we set about to create a studio that would be appropriate to the task. I did some research into white boxes, but none seemed to be big enough.
We decided to build our own. Richard put together a frame with pvc pipe. I stitched muslin panels, which would bounce the light. We created a plant box from an under-the-bed storage container. We got a big bag of potting soil, planted the plants, and brought in a bunch of leaves. We’re using water from our rain barrel to keep the plants, leaves, and snails moist.
I’m still a sucker for still shots so I took a few. This whole setup reminded me of the snail playgrounds our son, Nathan, set up when he found the first snails a decade ago. I’ll see if I can scare up a photo of those playgrounds, often made from cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, and empty juice cartons.
I took these with a Nikon D700 using a regular lens. Richard is using the Tamron 90 mm macro lens on the Nikon D7000.
These bottom two photos are from July 2003. The boys were 6 and 4. (It is so nice that digital photographs take the guesswork out of dating images.)