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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Citizen Scientist Rising: Why and 17 Great Places to Start



Mr. Robbo the PE Geek is an excellent blogger and incredible teacher. Located in remote Australia, he has these students using heart monitors and high definition cameras to understand their sport. (Read his It's Now Possible blog post from today. This PE teacher taught me about QR Codes. A neat person too.)

We can talk about getting kids interested in science, however, science is interested IN them because it can unlock higher performance in the things they love. Taking science to the ballfield is only the beginning

For those of you who saw my Daily Education & Technology News For Schools this morning know that I'm having a bit of a traipse into Citizen Science.

Citizen Science is Becoming "Legitimate" Science
Authentic citizen scientist research work is becoming very useful to high level scientists. When I sat down with Dr. Geoffrey "Jess" Parker from the Smithsonian last year and the Microsoft Innovative Educator Forum in South Africa, he said that it is pretty easy to use statistical analysis to filter out "noise" of readings that have been taken in err.
Josh Falk of the Smithsonian helps students band a tree.
Joshua Faulk helps students Treeband in south Africa at St. Cyprian's. Photo by Vicki Davis.

Dr. Parker is the scientist who discovered that trees in Maryland are growing faster than predicted. He and fellow scientist Joshua Faulk and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have partnered with Taking IT Global and Microsoft to create Shout Learning and the Smithsonian Tree Banding project where your students can participate.

Here are some important reasons you should have citizen science as part of your curriculum:

  • It introduces students to the scientific method and data collection responsibilities.
  • It introduces students to live science in action and makes it real. They can see questions before they have been answered and understand how science moves forward.
  • It adds meaning to their work. No longer answering the same questions answered hundreds of years a go, they are answering questions that help our world NOW! You and your classroom MAKE A Difference. (The principle of glocalization talked about in Thomas Friedman's work - Think globally act locally.)
  • As in the case of Mr. Robbo's lesson plan, they can use science to improve their performance which can show benefits on the field and also in their life as they realize science is in them, around them, everywhere.
  • It is project based learning in action and can lead to other cross curricular activities including math, writing reflections, technology (using spreadsheets) and more.
Citizen Science Websites
http://scienceforcitizens.net/
Here are some great places to start your citizen science journey. I personally believe that there should be a way to integrate citizen science at every grade level.

Most of these websites let you list your own project and join in. I'd also like to challenge educational researchers - where are the citizen science projects collecting data on how students learn and like different approaches to learning? Shouldn't there be citizen science projects about learning too?

17 Citizen Science Websites for Schools, Teachers, and Parents
  1. Science For Citizens.net - http://scienceforcitizens.net/
  2. CitSci.org for Monitoring Nature - http://www.citsci.org/
  3. NASA Citizen Scientist Website - http://science.nasa.gov/citizen-scientists/
  4. Space Hack - http://spacehack.org/ - Website targeting teens and space exploration.
  5. Collaborative Research for Humanities and Social Sciences - http://www.h-net.org/ (for top level researchers but open and collaborative)
  6. The Monarch Butterfly Migration Project by Journey North (one of the projects that started it all) - http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/
  7. Citizen Science Alliance - http://www.citizensciencealliance.org/projects.html
  8. The Society for Amateur Scientists: Helping Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Science - http://www.sas.org/
  9. iDo Science - created by the Society for Amateur Scientists this website targets linking educators and scientists - http://www.idoscience.org/
  10. Citizen CyberScience Center - http://www.citizencyberscience.net/
  11. Sci.spy - Download the Science Channel App to your smartphone and make scientific observations and upload to their website - http://scispy.discovery.com/pg/scispy/assignment/
  12. Scientific American Science Projects including the Bee Spotter project helping map what seems to be the declining population of bees - http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/
  13. Bird Sleuth - http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdsleuth/ - Investigate facts about birds.
  14. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has many activities involving birds - http://www.birds.cornell.edu/celebration
  15. Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network - A network of people who are measuring weather patterns in their own backyard - great for parents to do with children - http://www.cocorahs.org/
  16. Lost Ladybug Project - http://www.lostladybug.org/ Help find the lost ladybugs - many species in North America have become rare. Help researchers understand why.
  17. Project Budburst - another one of the original citizen science projects - http://neoninc.org/budburst/
See everything tagged citizen science at Diigo. To add to the list, just tag it citizenscientist - http://www.diigo.com/tag/citizenscientist.

Please, share how you are doing citizen science and the projects you've done in the messages below. In many ways, I guess our Flat Classroom projects are citizen science as well.

For those of you looking for answers to STEM education, perhaps we should look in our own backyards and basketball courts.

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