Kids Count: Let them be citizen scientists

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February 29, 2016 by HCDE-Texas

Penguins-SmallParticipating in citizen science projects is a wonderful way for students to see real-world science in action. There are hundreds of citizen science projects that allow students to help researchers collect and analyze data. For students, participation can make them feel connected to a community or a place far from home and can give them the satisfaction of knowing they have made a small but important contribution to real science.

Citizen science projects can range from long-term projects with classroom participation, to others that let students work independently on a mobile device.  One of my favorite projects is Penguin Watch, which allows students to monitor penguins in remote regions by looking at still images and counting the number of adults, chicks and eggs seen in the photos. This project requires nothing more than an internet connection, and students of all ages can develop observation skills!

Another of my favorite citizen science projects is Project BudBurst, where scientists monitor plants as seasons change. Students make observations on the timing of leaf, flower and fruit production and scientists can then use the data to learn more about how plants respond to changes in climate from a local, regional and national level.  They even have a separate project for younger students (K-4) called BudBurst Buddies, which is a wonderful resource for younger students to begin learning about plants and participate in real citizen science.

I was so impressed with Project BudBurst that I nominated the director, Dr. Sandra Henderson, for a White House Champions of Change Award in 2013.  When she was accepted as one of the final recipients, I was fortunate to be able to travel to the White House to see her receive the award in person.

Another favorite project is Managing Microbes in Space from Orion’s Quest. Middle and high school teachers can register their class for a project where students analyze video clips of nematodes in ground-based and space-based environments.  The goal of the project is to determine if the virulence (strength of infection) of Salmonella is different in space because the human immune system becomes weaker. Several local schools are already involved in this project, and teachers can find out more about how to participate in this and other space research projects at www.orionsquest.org.

To find more available citizen science projects and search by topic, activity or location, visit the SciStarter website. Let your students do authentic science by tracking scallop populations, mapping outer space or documenting the presence of migratory birds.  There’s a great big world outside the classroom!

About the Blogger:
Lisa Felske is curriculum director for science at Harris County Department of Education. Her areas of expertise include integrating science with other disciplines and student misconceptions in science. She enjoys being a Girl Scout leader, reading way past her bedtime, and using the Oxford comma.

4 thoughts on “Kids Count: Let them be citizen scientists

  1. Norah says:

    Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information, Lisa. I think projects such as these are a wonderful way of engaging children with science and for maintaining their innate curiosity. I will be linking to it in my next post on Friday.

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  2. […] me about ways of maintaining that engagement. The post, contributed by Lisa Felske, is entitled Kids Count: Let them Be Citizen Scientists. Lisa says that there of hundreds of projects children can get involved with, some for the […]

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