Archive for the ‘Common Core’ Category
Using School of Ants Citizen Science to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards in the Classroom
School of Ants (SOA) is one of many urban wildlife citizen science projects hosted through the Your Wildlife project. Your Wildlife and School of Ants focuses on biodiversity and citizen-scientist driven inquiry in urban areas around schools and homes. Dr. Andrea Lucky is the director of the SOA project out of the University of Florida’s Entomology Lab and the Nematology Lab at NC State. The idea behind the project is for citizen scientists to collect samples of ants from paved and green spaces around their homes and schools. They then send in the samples to the lab in Florida for identification. This data is used to generate a North American map of ant biodiversity and distribution.
SOA used to provide kits for ant collection but now they ask project participants to provide the supplies. As you can see from the list below these are limited to zip-lock bags, cookies, and index cards with some postal shipping. You can find step by step project instructions for the kits and collection in their free online PDF. Due to limited resources schools may participate by submitting one sample from each address or school location (no more than one). However you may submit multiple samples from different addresses (from the same person or class). Sampling takes exactly one hour. NOTE: as a caution be sure to have a minimal understanding of the biting and stinging ant varieties around your school. Do not collect ants that might cause harm to students.
Materials You’ll Need:
- Computer with internet and printer
- Instruction page for collecting ants
- 8 white 3”x5” index cards
- 2 Pecan Sandies Cookies (contains nuts, but must be used for standard protocol)
- 8 small zip-lock bags (1 qt.)
- 1 large zip-lock bag (1 gal.)
- 1 envelope for mailing ants by US post, and postage
- Magnifying glasses (optional)
- Dr. Elanor’s Book of Common Ants PDF (free online through iTunes, optional)
Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:
- Ants are ubiquitous and the project can be done anywhere in the US around schools or homes.
- Ants can be observed three seasons of the year in most locations.
- There are minimal supplies required to participate in this project.
- This project is a one-time activity, lasting one hour, so the time required is minimal.
- The project can be a springboard for lessons focusing on arthropods and invertebrates around the school.
Why Classrooms Should Integrate Citizen Science
After writing quite a few entries in the series “Citizen Science in the Classroom” I thought it would be helpful to explain a bit more about the benefits of citizen science science in the classroom, and to provide a useful resource to teachers and administrators that may help in justification and support of projects. These may help in writing grants, applying to administration for support, or in convincing you, as a teacher, why participation in citizen science is so important.
Sense of Community and Place
Citizen science is a way to contribute to a community. One of the best ways to introduce citizen science to students is to incorporate a geography lesson. This may be using something like Google Earth, and showing students where they are, where the citizen science project managers are located, and zooming in to the ecosystem and communities participating. By giving students a sense of place and belonging in a community (global or local) they gain the desire to participate and to become a citizen of that community. This is what “citizen science” is all about. Stewardship is the natural upshot of participation in research projects. Students suddenly care about what they are observing, and the community for which they are observing, thus they develop the desire to care for the community.
Learn More: On the Scistarter home page you can search for specific places in your community where you can participate in citizen science. This may be in a classroom, at a computer, at night, at home, in a car, on a walk, in a park. You can choose where in your community your class can best participate.
Recognition of Self Importance
Citizen science allows students to feel a sense of self-importance; they are recognized as valuable contributors to a larger goal or scientific effort. With the advent of computers and technology scientists are no longer in a vacuum. They need the community as a whole to help them collect and analyze massive amounts of data. Even the smallest members of this community, school age students, can contribute. As a teacher you can help students develop this sense of self-importance by monitoring the real-time data on the websites where you upload your information and showing students how their data contributes to understanding trends and information. This type of inquiry based learning allows students to ask questions, collect data, and to answer their questions. Students are given recognition as a part of the science community, which is often lacking in other fields.
Learn More: Many projects, like Project Noah or NASA’s “Be a Martian“, have recognition for achieving specific levels of participation. This might be a virtual merit badge or patch or some other online reward.
Understanding that Research isn’t Just for Scientists
Citizen science in the classroom allows students to understand that they can engage in science without having advanced degrees, without special tools, and outside of a laboratory and white lab coat. By integrating citizen science into your lessons you can help students develop the confidence to try making observations, collecting data, and exploring the natural world. The skills of natural observation are being lost to hard sciences, specialization, and teaching to the test. Students are not encouraged to engage in research on a local level, at home, or in their communities. Citizen science reverses this. Science becomes attainable, and something that anyone can participate in, regardless of being in an urban or rural environment.
Learn More: On the Scistarter Project Finder page you can search for projects that meet your needs, such as urban or rural, low cost or free, indoors or outdoors, and more.
Reaching Different Types of Learners
There are many different learning styles in the classroom. Some students learn best by reading, some by listening, some by drawing, and some by talking with others. The benefit of citizen science is that many different learning styles can be incorporated into each project. Citizen science lends itself to kinesthetic learning (hands-on) by collecting data and measurements, reading and analysis of data or background research, co-operative group sharing, and opportunities for verbal instruction, graphs and drawing, sharing, and analysis. Because of the hands-on nature of citizen science it may also be a candidate for students with autism or special needs or those that learn best through kinesthetic activities.
Learn More: To learn more about student learning styles check out this great National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) article on learning styles and multiple intelligences in students by Barbra M. Manner.
Development of Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is one of the skills that is never directly stated in teaching standards but it is implied. It is the ability to make observations from experiences, to reflect on those experiences, apply reason and conceptualization and then to synthesize the information into a meaningful belief or action. Citizen science provides the platform for student experience in research, participation in a science community, and opportunities to apply reason and conceptualization to methods of data collection, data analysis, and synthesis of meaning as applied to data sets from the “whole” project. These critical thinking skills are valuable as a tool that can spill over into other fields and disciplines.
Learn More: If you would like to learn more about developing critical thinking in children then check out his PDF article from the Surry College Director of Early Childhood Education on “The Importance of Applying Critical Thinking to Children’s Learning.”
Use of Multiple Skill Sets
As mentioned earlier critical thinking is just one skill that students may learn to use and apply during citizen science projects. Depending on the project they may be asked to use a wide variety of other skills from physical observations in the natural world, mathematical modeling, and application of reasoning and judgment to observations. Students may be asked to research the topic, use computer skills for entering data, learn new measurement tools or apps, model, and to work in a group setting by sharing their data and findings. Citizen science asks students to engage on social, environmental, mathematical, and analytical levels. These skills are a part of the testing in the Common Core Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College Careers (PARCC). Real-life citizen science projects mimic the kinds of skills students will need, for the test, and once they graduate.
Learn More: Never heard of the PARCC testing? Visit their website to learn more. There are tests for 3rd through 12th grade.
Application of the Scientific Method
Although the “application of the scientific method” could technically fall under the “skill sets” mentioned above, it’s important enough to warrant its own short discussion. By participating in citizen science projects teachers can help students critically analyze the way that scientists collect data, develop their study projects, enter data, and make sense of what they find. This helps them understand how the scientific method is applied in the real world. Teachers may also encourage “spin-offs” of the citizen science projects by having students develop their own studies using the scientific method, and modeling their projects after the projects of other researchers. In citizen science students learn critical thinking skills and the steps of the scientific method which can be applied to almost any field.
Meeting Next Generation and Common Core Teaching Standards
For teachers, the ability to meet the standards that they have to satisfy for state and regional teaching requirements is critical. Fortunately most, if not all, citizen science meets many of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core (CC) teaching standards as well as Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. I’ve worked to help connect specific citizen science projects in SciStarter with these standards. You can find examples, with grade by grade break-downs, on the SciStarter “Citizen Science in the Classroom” page.
I know there are many ways that teachers and students benefit from citizen science and these standards are just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even go into how scientists and researchers benefit, and they do! How do you, and your classes, benefit from citizen science in the classroom?
Using Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Project NestWatch to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards
Project NestWatch is hosted through Cornell University’s Ornithology lab located in Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca, New York. When you look for it on the SciStarter website or online remember that the project’s name is one word not two. It is a national project, open to those in urban and rural environments, that asks participants to monitor nesting birds. For the most part this is a spring or summer activity, though for eagles and other early nesters observation may start as early as February. Cornell researchers are interested in the reproductive biology of birds, nesting start times, numbers of eggs laid, hatching, mortality rates, and fledging. This data helps researchers collect information that might clarify the effects of climate change, urbanization, habitat loss, invasive species, and changing population dynamics. You, or your class, will be asked to learn and observe the proper protocols for nest watching, register a user name and password online, pass a short nest watching quiz, and enter data every 3-4 days during the nesting season.
Materials You’ll Need:
- Computer with internet access and printer.
- Access to locations with possible bird nests, cavities, nest boxes, or trees.
- Binoculars, at least one pair.
- Field guide(s) [see "Teaching Resources" below]
- Optional: Nest boxes or nest box with camera (Information provided below if you’re interested in purchasing or making these)
Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:
- Project NestWatch is a national project and it can be conducted in urban or rural environments across North America.
- This project is ideal for elementary through middle school students and requires very little investment of time.
- The website provides extensive training resources, data sheets, and access to data from previous years.
- Students gain a sense of “ownership” over their natural community as they make observations and follow the life cycle of the birds.
- This project can be conducted over a period of years, following the same bird or birds in the observation area.
How one science educator used SciStarter to inform pre-service teachers how to use citizen science in the classroom and in curricula.
See the Citizen Science App Matrix, which aligns citizen science projects found on SciStarter to teaching standards!
This is my first attempt to enter the blogosphere, so please bear with me. As part of my duties of assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, I teach science education methods to elementary education majors (preservice teachers) in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. Beginning in 2012, my college launched an iPad initiative where every undergraduate education major would receive their very own iPad for use in their university and field experience classrooms.
Upon receiving my own iPad, I immediately began searching the internet for viable iPad applications (apps) that were specific to science education. It was through this searching that I came across the concept of “Citizen Science” and the SciStarter website. Citizen Science, as a formal concept, has been prevalent in our society for more than 30 years. As the internet and subsequent technologies continue to develop over this period, so do the opportunities for amateur “scientists” to get involved in these types of research-based projects. These mobile smart technologies allow teachers and their students to collect and analyze data, as well as to contribute these data for the dissemination of the findings related to these projects.
Seeing the vast potential of the citizen science projects listed in the SciStarter database for my elementary school science methods course, I utilized the SciStarter Project Finder’s “Advanced Search” option to identify those citizen science projects that specifically require an iPad. After reading each summary posted on SciStarter, I then visited each project’s website to examine thoroughly the project task. To justify using these projects in the elementary school classroom and for my own edification, I aligned each citizen science project with the scientific practices, disciplinary core ideas, and related performance expectations in the Next Generation Science Standards.
Once I gained proficiency in this task, I assigned the citizen science project to my preservice teachers. My students were responsible for visiting SciStarter and selecting one citizen science project that required the use of an iPad. They were then instructed to determine the research question that guided their particular project and to prepare instructions for data collection and an appropriate data organizer. Students were expected to collect and submit data pertinent to the project and analyze the current and existing data by generating or reproducing graphs that best represented these data. After experiencing these projects, students then aligned the scientific practices that best aligned with the project and determined the disciplinary core idea(s) and performance expectations inherent in the project.
Most of my students thoroughly enjoyed this assignment and related experiences. Many of these students incorporated their chosen project in their field experience placement during the semester. Through this assignment, I have observed the value of citizen science apps and their relevance to elementary education majors and their field experience students. Thank you, SciStarter, for providing this database for my students and me.
Timothy A. Laubach is an assistant professor in science education at the University of Oklahoma. He holds a BS in earth science education and a MEd and PhD in science education. Tim has 20 years of combined teaching experience at the elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate levels. He has published 12 peer-reviewed journal articles and one book chapter and presented 40 papers at national/international to state-level science education conferences. Tim has also lead extensive professional development for science and mathematics teachers across the state of Oklahoma. He will occasionally be advising SciStarter on aligning citizen science projects to Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, and the basic scientific practices.
Using Journey North’s Monarch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards
Citizen Science and Monarch Migration as a Teaching Tool
Journey North (JN) is a citizen science project for the observation and tracking of seasonal weather changes and phenology or life cycle changes in animals and plants. This website is an amazing resource and interactive platform for teachers. There’s so much information that they provide that it’s almost jaw dropping. On their site you’ll find how your class can participate in tracking everything from seasonal changes in daylight to migrations of humming birds, whales, and even flower blooming. One of the most popular citizen science projects on their site is the monarch butterfly project. In this project students and teachers can learn about the life cycles of monarchs, their natural history, and migration. Students may look for monarchs in their local area and report observations of eggs, larvae, pupa, and adults. This project encompasses much more than just observations. The content provided on their site includes geography, historical and real-time data, ecological conservation, life cycles, reading comprehension and more.
Materials You’ll Need:
- A computer with internet access.
- A printer that can print in color (preferably).
- Optional: milkweed plants and flowers that may be conducive for monarch food, water, or shelter.
Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:
- This project can be done either in or out of the classroom and in or out of urban areas.
- It requires very little equipment or tools.
- Usable data, graphs, maps, reading materials, and lesson plans, and identification tools are provided on the site.
- You can meet almost every standard of Common Core and Next. Gen standards with this project and all the resources provided on the site.
- Teachers can use the lessons provided even if they don’t participate in the project.
- Students learn geography and science together.
- Students obtain a “sense of place” by making local observations and contributing to a global observation effort that can be seen in “real-time” on the site’s maps.
- Zero data can be useful, which teaches children about the importance of collecting all types of data.
- Uploading data is safe and children remain anonymous, it’s put in as a class.
- They have a free app that you can use in the field with a smart phone so you’re not tied to the classroom for uploading data. Students can put in their observations in real time.
Supplied on Journey North’s Website you’ll find a while host of videos, reading materials, maps, slide shows, downloadable data, and more. There is also a teacher’s guide that can help you find introductory lessons and more information for your lessons. They also offer the ability to be monarch “ambassadors” and exchange cards with schools in South America through their “symbolic migration” butterfly card program.
Online Safety for Children
Teachers create one account for uploading data for their entire class so no specific student data is needed. They do ask that you put in your address and provide an e-mail. They also ask you what grade you teach and approximately how many students are in that grade. After one initial registration you don’t need to do anything more except log in and begin recording observations. A log-in is not required to access all the free lesson support materials on the site.