Celine Schlappy explores the Empire Ranch with the help of “Agents of Discovery,” a new interactive phone app.  Photo by Cami Schlappy

The historic Empire Ranch is moving into the cyber world of the twenty-first century. And it is doing this without disturbing the historical charm and beauty of the ranch. 

The Bureau of Land Management, who manages the Empire Ranch, has made the ranch house and surrounding buildings available to the national internet application, ‘Agents of Discovery.’ This volunteer organization’s mission is to map and allow interactive access to historical areas throughout the United States by making tours more interesting and exciting for families with their children. It uses GPS to monitor where the participants are currently located at the site and then explains what they are seeing. It asks questions and then plays exploring games with the children to keep them entertained and interested. 

Cami Schlappy of Sonoita explained how the system works. “My daughter, Celine, is six. She loved that she could navigate to each question mark on her own. She even said that she’s a really good navigator…At each question mark, they are to read and answer the multiple-choice question. Being that she’s six, we read the questions to her and helped her answer the questions. She was really engaged and focused on the quest. She tried to answer correctly and move on to the next adventure. It really tapped into her adventurous spirit. When we were done, she was ready to try another one. We will probably visit other sites that have the same feature.”

Suitable for all ages, it has been a real asset to parents with their frequently disinterested, bored charges, allowing the children to use their phones to actually participate in the experience and perhaps learn something in the process. 

This free app is downloaded while one has WiFi access. It is then ready to use, even where internet access is not available. This makes it suitable for the remote areas of the Empire Ranch. The app at this time is only on its “First Mission” according to Jeff Van Ryberg, who created and mapped the “Mission.” Ryberg plans on extending this to other parts of the ranch and is excited to provide more missions for the little explorers, mapping more areas to be explored. 

To get started:

1. Download the free Agents of Discovery app to your mobile device at the Apple App Store, Google Play or visit www.AgentsofDiscovery.com.

2. After downloading the app, click on the Missions button and select the ones you want to play.

3. Preload the missions and head out to the Historic Empire Ranch to start completing your challenges!