Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ tag

Citizen Science in the Classroom: School of Ants

By April 2nd, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Comment

Using School of Ants Citizen Science to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards in the Classroom

School of ants alex wild photos

Discovering Ants

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

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
  • Freezer
  • Book
  • Magnifying glasses (optional)
  • Dr. Elanor’s Book of Common Ants PDF (free online through iTunes, optional)

ant capture alex wild

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.

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8 Great Reasons Why You Should Use Citizen Science in Your Class

By March 24th, 2014 at 11:26 am | Comment

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Collecting amphibian data (Photo: Karen McDonald)

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.

Project Noah Patchs

Project Noah provides virtual “patches” as reward for participation in their projects. (Photo: Project Noah)

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.

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Butterfly surveys and citizen science (Photo: Karen McDonald)

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.

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Salamander and amphibian surveys (Photo: Karen McDonald)

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?

Citizen Science in the Classroom: Project NestWatch

By March 24th, 2014 at 11:01 am | Comment

 

Nest watch home page

Project Nest Watch is a great citizen science project, through Cornell University, for your classroom. (Photo: NestWatch website)

Using Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Project NestWatch to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

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.

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Citizen Science in The Classroom: Monarch Migration

By March 16th, 2014 at 10:16 am | Comment

Using Journey North’s Monarch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

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Journey North supports a variety of citizen science projects, including monarch migration. (Photo: Journey North)

Citizen Science and Monarch Migration as a Teaching Tool

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

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.

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Journey North support real-time data and mapping of monarch sightings, which are useful geography tools for the classroom. (Photo: Journey North)

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.

Teaching Materials:

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.

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Journey North has a free mobile app for uploading your observations. (Photo: Journey North)

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Citizen Science in the Classroom Series: Phytoplankton Monitoring Network

By March 6th, 2014 at 10:30 am | Comment

Citizen Science in the Classroom and the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network  

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Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Screen Shot (Photos: NOAA PMN)

 

NOAA National Ocean Service Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Citizen Science Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

Grades:

1st-12th (*see notes below about elementary grades)

Description:

The Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is hosted through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). This project is a part of the REDM or Regional Ecosystem Data Management system, which establishes and catalogs regional data about ecosystem health. Phytoplankton is the base of the food web, it provides over ½ our oxygen, and is the foundation for life in the oceans. Too much plankton can cause harmful algal blooms (HAB) and poisoning of shellfish as well as low oxygen in marine waters. Researchers with PMN are focused on monitoring native and invasive populations of phytoplankton in coastal US waters as well as tracking HABs. You do not have to be a plankton expert for this project. The researchers will provide you with ID support, a phytoplankton image gallery, and a plankton ID app for your smart phones.

This citizen science project is a bit different than others that we’ve talked about because it is region specific. To participate you must live along coastal waterways with water that has a salinity of at least 10-15 ppt (parts per thousand).  The other difference in this project is that it requires two trainings (of a teacher or class) online or in person (about 4 hours total time) and you must commit to taking and observing water samples two times a week (5-10 minutes each) for a year. Time will also need to be allocated for students to process the samples. This could range from 2 hours to 20 minutes depending on the sample and how fast the students become in their IDs. The project could be broken up by class or shared with other teachers and volunteers.

*This citizen science activity tends to lend itself towards middle to high school classes; however, it can easily be approached as a platform for early education. In the standards section below there are some ideas for elementary students and activities they may do to participate in conjunction with middle to high school grades that could do the actual sampling and ID processing.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Live in an area with access to water that has 10-15 ppt salinity. If you’re not sure of your water’s salinity PMN staff will send you a hydrometer, and instructions, for measuring this.
  • Computer access with printer.
  • Online access and ability to upload data.
  • All materials are provided by PMN except a rope and a compound microscope with 200-400x magnification.
  • Materials provided by PMN include a plankton net, data sheets, and water testing equipment.
  • Clipboards and pencils for data collection.

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • Even though there is a one year time commitment this project could lend itself to students feeling a sense of ownership through a meaningful long term project.
  • This may be used as a service or research project for volunteer hours for students needing community service.
  • Almost all of the materials for the project are supplied by the PMN.
  • Phytoplankton monitoring also includes water analysis, which may be used as supplemental water chemistry lessons; this includes pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen and more.

Teaching Materials:  

The down-side to the project is that they do not provide pre-made lesson plans. They do provide volunteer training, plankton identification training, a plankton ID app for smart phones, and a beautiful phytoplankton photo gallery online as well as pre-made data collection sheets. Because of this lack of teaching materials I will be referencing outside teaching resources that you may want to consider. This includes the books: “Sea Soup: Phytoplankton” and “SeaSoup: Zooplankton” by Mary M. Cerullo and Bill Curtsinger. The Center for Microbial Oceanography (CMO) has assembled a 70 page lesson plan for 3rd-12th grade that is very comprehensive, especially for those that don’t have enough microscopes for all students. UCLA has published a short set of plankton lesson plans, to meet NGSS standards, for grades 4-12. You can also find a plankton sampling lesson through the New Jersey Marine Science Center Consortium (grades 4-12).

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NOAA plankton app (Photo: NOAA PMN)

 

Online Safety for Children

For this project you will need to submit a form for your sampling site to become an official location. This does require public sharing of your school/site’s address and the contact information of at least one representative. Students do not need to create their own account. Only one account for data uploading is required and this may be done through the teacher. However, multiple teachers or volunteers may access the account to upload information.

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An example of fresh water algae (plankton). (Photo: NOAA PMN, Dr. Steve Morton)

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:

First Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 1-LS3-1 Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like their parents. Using the lesson plan from UCLA teachers may have students sort plankton by phyto and zoo and then discuss how they differ from land and plant animals. Student may also then compare the larval life cycle phase of the zooplankton to adults. Resources with pictures of adult and larval plankton are also in the CMO Lesson 3. If students are observing plankton under the microscopes they may also make the comparisons mentioned above. The image gallery provided by the PMN would be helpful for ID, including freshwater algae.

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