Upbeat, collaborative, and focused: Educators at SXSWedu reflect on the value and future of citizen science in education

By Catherine Hoffman | March 29, 2017 9:58 am

Who really benefits from citizen science? How can citizen science support STEM education?  How do we bring citizen science to new audiences? How can we leverage new technologies to expand student participation in citizen science projects?

Attendees explore tools together.

These were some of the questions we set out to discuss at the Citizen Science Meet-up at SXSWedu. SXSWedu is an annual conference that attracts thought-leaders from the worlds of education, technology, policy, and the media. This year, 7,000 participants from 38 countries—including bestselling authors, TED-talking professors, and quirky teachers—came together to discuss the future of teaching and learning. At SciStarter and the California Academy of Sciences, we believe that citizen science is an integral part of that future, so we joined forces to bring our ideas to the participants of SXSWedu.

We designed the Meet-up as an interactive experience with roundtable conversations and resource share-outs. In one corner of the room, participants explored a playground of citizen science projects and toolkits, including tinkering with arthropod observation tools, exploring the biodiversity app iNaturalist, and discovering diverse DIY projects featured on SciStarter. In another corner, at the Citizen Science Platter, the participants shared their insights about the role of citizen science in education today. Here’s what people were saying:

“We are upbeat and enthusiastic about the power of citizen science.” Citizen science is a powerful tool that can be used to tap into the natural curiosity of students and empower students to drive their own learning, both inside and outside the classroom. Moreover, citizen science has a low barrier to entry. “Everyone has a phone,” one attendee said, referring to the proliferation of elegant apps, such as iNaturalist and GLOBE Observer, that democratize participation in the scientific process.

SciStarter and the California Academy of Sciences display citizen science projects and tools at SXSWedu

“We need more collaborative work in the field.” We need best practices to guide collaborations between educators, scientists, and research on learning. For example, scientists can be more transparent about how the data collected by citizen scientists will be used. We also need to continue to develop ways citizen scientists can connect with each other to share experiences, learn from each other, and create a sense of community in citizen science. In addition to using Web apps, we might also ask citizen scientists to create portfolios of their work so that they can showcase their achievements and get feedback from students peers and other citizen scientists. For example, the new SciStarter dashboard is a digital portfolio for people to track, earn credit, and receive recognition for their contributions across projects. There is clearly an opportunity to expand this to serve the needs of classrooms.

“We need design that is more focused on who we are trying to reach.” As advocates for citizen science, we can make educators’ jobs easier by building more scaffolding around our designs. For example, as citizen science practitioners develop projects that are fit for schools, they might consider the limits of space at many schools. An added challenge is determining how citizen science can most effectively enhance STEM learning

The Meet-up created a renewed sense of the excitement about using citizen science as a learning and engagement tool for STEM education. There are many smart, creative, passionate people who are designing and evaluating citizen science experiences both in and out of the classroom. Our power comes from the communities we support, and we encourage program designers to not only collaborate across organizations, but also empower their audiences with additional resources. If you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas:

  1. The California Academy of Sciences Citizen Science Toolkit for Educators provides step by step instructions for integrating citizen science projects into classroom curricula or afterschool programming.
  2. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology BridSleuth program provides connections  between the Next Generation Science Standards and Citizen Science.
  3. To get started on citizen science right away, check out SciStarter’s amazing repository of citizen science projects. Many projects have been rated, reviewed and aligned to standards by educators. You can search for projects that have teaching materials or search by appropriate grade-level. You and your students can set up  personalized dashboard to help track involvement and interest in projects and help you discover personalized recommendations.

Together, we make the commitment to help connect citizen science more closely with  educators, students, and, of course, anyone who wants to contribute to our understanding of the world. The future of citizen science is bright, and we welcome it with open arms.


For more information or to chat further please feel free to reach out!

Katie Levedahl (KLevedahl@calacademy.org)

Katie drives the strategic design, implementation, and wide-scale expansion of science education resources that transform informal science learning. As the Director of Informal learning with the California Academy of Sciences her work includes expansion of offerings to serve thousands of people through the Academy’s youth leadership programs, the founding and scaling of the Science Action Club network, and a lead role with several regional STEM education networks.

Catherine Hoffman (catherine@scistarter.com)

Catherine bring citizen science to new audiences through SciStarter. As the Managing Director of SciStarter she oversees strategic partnerships with formal and informal education groups, coordinates product development within SciStarter, and grows citizen science through festivals and events throughout the country.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Education

Citizen science comes to public television this April

By Catherine Hoffman | March 24, 2017 9:26 am
Photo: The Crowd and the Cloud

Photo: The Crowd and the Cloud

This April, The Crowd & The Cloud brings you a 4-part public television series exploring citizen science, crowdsourcing, and mobile technology. You’ll find the SciStarter Project Finder on The Crowd & The Cloud website to help viewers of the show become do-ers of science!  Below we’ve highlighted each episode and related projects to jump start your viewing!

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Photo: The Crowd and The Cloud
Even Big Data Starts Small
The crowd, using mobile tech, and the cloud contribute to science that saves lives. In this episode, you’ll hear stories of everyday people contributing data used for emergency management, researching Alzheimers, mapping oils spills, and more.
 
World Broadcast: April 6th at 9pm EST
(replayed at 9pm PST)

Photo: The Crowd and The Cloud
Citizens + Scientists
Citizen scientists track air pollution in Wyoming, test for lead in Philadelphia’s drinking water, fish for data in coldwater trout streams and report environmental crimes in China, using the “Black & Smelly Rivers” app. Hear all these stories and more in Episode 2.
World Broadcast: April 13th at 9pm EST
(replayed at 9pm PST)

Photo: The Crowd and The Cloud
Viral vs Virus
Real-time data helps track environmental triggers for asthma sufferers and citizens confront air pollution and rising asthma rates by collecting real time data. In this episode, explore how maps and apps can combat globalized disease from asthma to Zika.
World Broadcast: April 20th at 9pm EST
(replayed at 9pm PST)

Photo: The Crowd and The Cloud
Citizens4Earth
This episode explores a Year in the Life of Citizen Science. Counting birds with an app, surfers collecting ocean data while they ride the waves, volunteers surveying horseshoe crabs on the Delaware Bay, and butterflies wintering over in California.
World Broadcast: April 27th at 9pm EST
(replayed at 9pm PST)

CROWD & CLOUD plans live tweeting during both WORLD channel feeds (same day, same time to 70+ leading PBS stations) with a live one hour interactive “hangout” at 10pm ET and 10pm Pacific. Other PBS stations will program their broadcasts asynchronously, and Scistarter will have a station finder on our website. All programs will be streaming on the Crowd and Cloud website, and those of PBS stations, after April 1st.

Endangered Bumble Bee Gets Help From Citizen Scientists

By Eva Lewandowski | March 22, 2017 4:40 pm

The United States Endangered Species Act is often considered to be the most powerful piece of environmental legislation not just in the US, but in the world. As a result, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) formally lists a species as either threatened or endangered, it can be a game-changer for the species in question, protecting and even recovering a plant or animal that would otherwise be headed towards extinction. Such an action usually garners a fair amount of notice among conservation biologists and environmental advocates. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Collaborative Citizen Science for Clean Water Management

By Guest | March 15, 2017 5:46 pm

By Lishka Arata, Conservation Educator at Point Blue

Volunteers collecting a sample from the lake to examine under the microscope. Photo: CMC

Despite the current administration’s efforts to roll back the Clean Water Act and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, interest and participation is growing in a new EPA- and stakeholder-led citizen science project that aims to inform clean water management.

The Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative has been gathering steam since 2010, when Hilary Snook, EPA Senior Water Quality Scientist, began receiving calls from state water quality agencies with complaints from their constituents about cyanobacteria blooms occurring in their waters.

A collaborative workgroup was formed between New England state water quality scientists and the EPA in an effort to create something that was stakeholder-inclusive and educational for those concerned about and involved in addressing cyanobacteria blooms and the water quality issues that surround them. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs and CoCoRaHS Wants to Know Where and How Many Fell

By acrall | March 11, 2017 8:24 am

You may have noticed some strange weather recently where you live. For example, in February, it reached 100o in Mangum, Oklahoma when 56o is the average. For the first time ever, temperatures in Antartica rose to the high 60s. And when was the last time you saw a headline reading Hawaii Has Had More Snow than Chicago or Denver in 2017? Some may link these strange events to a changing climate, and although climate influences weather patterns, it’s important to make a distinction between the two to fully understand the impacts of global climate change.

Neil Degrasse Tyson communicates this distinction with an analogy of a man walking his dog, and another common analogy states: “weather influences what clothes you wear on a given day, while the climate where you live influences the entire wardrobe you buy.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

Book Review: Diary of a Citizen Scientist

By Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher | March 9, 2017 4:46 pm

Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and other New Ways of Engaging the World by Sharman Apt Russell. Oregon State University Press. 2014.  

From the very first pages, Russell’s diary pulls the reader into experience. Vivid descriptions, lively metaphors, and breathless narrative bring together her diary entries into a larger story of becoming a scientist. Russell and her tiger beetles are revealed within her first entry—these are indeed the main characters in the story that follows—and we find a scientist at the beginning of her expedition into the mysterious world of tiger beetles.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

Reef Check Underwater Science

By Kristin Butler | March 3, 2017 8:00 am

“People protect what they love.” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau

When I was a kid, my family and I used to love watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” Every week we’d set out the TV tables and share our dinner with the French marine explorer as he led us on underwater adventures and taught us to appreciate the beauty of science and the sea.

His show is one of the main reasons I became an environmental reporter and earned my scuba diving certification in Monterey Bay, and it made a similar positive impact on millions of other kids and families across the globe.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Citizen Science to track weather and climate change

By Eva Lewandowski | March 2, 2017 9:57 am
Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Many scientists rely on “small data” from  volunteers to understand local and global weather patterns and climate change. Collectively, the data are used to calibrate weather instruments on NASA satellites, or by the National Weather Service to refine forecasts or flood warnings.  Below, we highlight five projects turning small data into big impacts.  You can find more projects on SciStarter to do now or bookmark your favorites for later.  Learn more about small-to-big data in citizen science.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

CoCoRaHS
Install a rain gauge and start measuring precipitation with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. The data are publicly available and used by weather forecasters, scientists, farmers, and more.
Get started! United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Photo: Osvaldo Sala
International Drought Experiment
This ambitious global experiment is attempting to measure drought effects in different ecosystems. You’ll need to build or purchase “drought shelters” making this an ideal, long-term project for schools and community groups.
Get started! Global

MIT Climate CoLab
Climate CoLab uses collective intelligence and creativity to find ways to counteract climate change. When you join the project, you collaborate with people from across the world to develop proposals to combat climate change.

Photo: USFWS
Picture Pile
A huge array of online photographs awaits you. By sorting and classifying the images, you will help researchers study issues including global climate change.
Get started! Online

Photo: USFWS
NASA Globe Observer: Clouds
Satellite images convey important information about the earth, but on-the-ground data are also needed to “ground-truth” satellite data. You can help by taking photos of clouds and sky conditions, identifying the types of clouds you see, and sharing the information with NASA.
Get started! Global


Excited about urban nature? The City Nature Challenge will be happening in cities across the United States this Spring. Find one near you in the SciStarter Event Finder!  Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Out of Sight, Out Of Mind: Visualizing the Invisible

By Guest | February 21, 2017 2:15 pm

By Kaitlin Vortherms

When smog is so thick that it clouds our vision, we can see and acknowledge that air pollution is a problem. In December of last year, China issued its second ever red alert, their highest rating for air pollution, and last month, London broke modern air pollution records.

But on days when the haze has lifted, we tend to forget air pollution is still there. More to the point, we forget about how air pollution affects our health and the environment. It’s out of sight, and therefore, out of mind.

But what if we could actually see air pollution levels, even when the smog isn’t present? Would this motivate us to make changes about how we live our lives? This is where AirVisual comes in. Air Visual is a crowd-sourced platform that provides information and access to historical, real-time, and forecast air quality data in a visually engaging way. Read More

Citizen Science in the City

By Eva Lewandowski | February 17, 2017 2:25 pm
unnamed (2)Do you live or work in a city? Well, have we got the projects for YOU! Below, we highlight research projects in need of your help in cities.  Find more projects on SciStarter to do now or bookmark your favorites for later!
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science
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