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Using the Quake-Catcher Network Citizen Science Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

By February 24th, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Comment

Citizen Science in the Classroom: Quake-Catcher Network

Quake-Catcher Network Citizen Science Project Meeting Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

QCN screen shot 1

Quake-Catcher Network Imaging Map

Grades:

K-12

Description:

Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) is a citizen science project that uses internet and sensors (subsidized or free for K-12 classrooms) to connect schools and other entities to an earthquake monitoring network. It is hosted through Stanford University (along with UC Berkeley) and is supported by the National Science Foundation, US Geological Survey, the Incorporated Research, UPS, and O Navi (a low cost sensor development company).  The idea of this project is to create earthquake and seismology awareness, as well as recording data though a “distributed computing network.” This means that your classroom’s computer will be linked to a network of other computers relaying information back to the central hub monitoring for earthquakes.

For this project you need to be at least fairly tech savvy and able to understand how to download drivers and software, and able to install programs on your computer. The initial investment of time will be setting up everything so that it syncs with the BOINC seismology network. I would suggest at least a good solid hour or possibly two. You may also have to go through your IT department to be sure that there are no firewall issues and that you have permission to add the software required.  However, the investment is well worth the hand-on science aspect of this project and the feeling of connection that students may gain by participating in a global program.

The nice thing about this project is that it provides teacher support, lesson plans, and multimedia materials to help get you started. This type of citizen science, and the lesson plans provided, tends to run towards middle to high school content but it can be used by elementary schools as well.

Materials You’ll Need:

I’m going to spend a bit more time on the materials section, because this project is more tech centered than others. The QCN has different way that your classroom can participate in this project, either through seismic software sensors that are already in your mobile device or laptop (many Macs have this) or by sending you a $5 subsidized sensor. There is an option for a free sensor, but you must be in what they deem a “high risk” area, which I take to mean on a fault line or high activity area. Otherwise, you can mail in a request form for up to 3 sensors for $5 each. The nice thing is that for low income schools you can get a “loan” sensor and there is a free sensor program for schools that are Title1.

qcn sensor

QCN Sensor.

Sensors require that you have a USB capable device and you can dedicate one USB port to the project. The software that you download comes in a variety of formats for Windows and Mac. You will also need a location on the floor that will not be disturbed by students.  Your sensor will be connecting to the network using a software program called BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure Networking Computing). It was originally used for the SETI program, but now it’s used for computer sourcing projects world-wide.

Some of the lesson plans on the QCN site also require that you have a mobile device or computer with an accelerometer. This is built into most smart phones though you may need to download an app. You may also borrow one from QCN. This is not required to participate in the program.

  • Computer with internet access.
  • QCN network sensor.
  • USB Drive that can be dedicated to this project.
  • Permission to download drivers and BOINC software to the computer.
  • Duct Tape and glue
  • Printer

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

  • Even though the program has some tech to it, it can be set up fairly easily.
  • There are many strong lesson plans free online.
  • Technology from this project supports STEM curriculum.
  • Teachers can run simulations and scenarios for students in the classroom.
  • This project incorporates maps, graphs, and technology.

Teaching Materials:

The lessons and activities provided by QCN can be found on their website. These tell you exactly what grade they are for and there are variations of some activities for different grade levels, K-12.

Online Safety for Children

The set up for QCN is done by an adult, and students do not need to enter information or data. Teachers will need to create a BOINC account with an e-mail and password. There are options to provide data about where you sensor is located. The more specific (long/lat) the better because this helps with their data collection. However, the BOINC software allows you choose to provide very specific or very general location information if you’re worried about privacy.

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Citizen Science in the Classroom Series: Project Noah

By January 23rd, 2014 at 9:54 pm | Comment

Using Project Noah to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

Project Noah title page

Grades: K-12th

Description: Project Noah is a digital platform that is designed to allow students, teachers, citizens and biologists to create a database that documents the biodiversity of plants, animals, insects, and much more across the planet. The data uploaded includes photos, geographic location, date, time, and other relevant information about the observations. Participants can join pre-formed missions to find animals, plants, butterflies, reptiles, or invasive species. Teachers may also set up specific classroom missions for students. This type of crowd sourcing information provides researchers with valuable information about species presence and absences as well as abundance. Participants may upload their spottings online or using a mobile app (iPhone or Android). There are virtual rewards or “patches” for certain achievements, such as the number of photos posted of birds, mammals, invertebrates or plants. The data that is uploaded is available to teachers for downloading and using in class for mathematical analysis. For public missions the photos that are uploaded as “unknown” are open for others to suggest identification assistance, which is often quite helpful.

Project Noah Patchs

Patches that students may earn during the Project Noah challenges

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Computer with internet access.
  • Digital camera(s)
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Notebook to record siting information
  • Cell phone and Project Noah app optional
  • Program that can upload CSV spreadsheet, optional (MS Excel works for this)
  • Depending on “mission” or class project nets, insect collectors, boots, etc. may be required

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

  • This project is simple enough for even kindergarten classes to participate.
  • Regardless of where you are in the world, and whether you’re an urban or rural school you can participate year round.
  • Tools required are minimal and can you can integrate smart phone technology into the classroom.
  • Students may participate inside or outside the classroom.
  • Teachers may join the global mission set up by Project Noah or create their own missions for their students.
  • When creating a class specific mission teachers may create anonymous student numbers/accounts for student safety. Only those in in the class with a specific log-in and URL may participate in or access the mission.
  • Project Noah is very visual and an easy way to connect with other students and observers globally.
  • Data is available to upload from each mission for supplementing math activities in the classroom.

Teaching Materials:

A limited number of videos about Project Noah, and sample lesson plans, are available on their website.

Online Safety for Children

The Project Noah website can be accessed by the instructor creating their own account and joining pre-formed missions or by creating a class-specific mission. The classroom mission gives teachers the option to create anonymous individual student accounts with specific numbers (you may have as many students as you wish). The URL for the specific class challenge you create is private and only students with their own log-in may access the site. Project Noah will offer to create unique passwords for students or one password that you set for the entire class. Students may also join external public missions but they will still remain anonymous with a student number. They may choose to upload a profile picture (of themselves or an animal) but no other information is required or asked for.

Project Noah Spottings

Examples of Project Noah Spottings

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:

Kindergarten:

Next. Gen. Science: K-LS-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record photos of the things that animals and plants need to survive. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.K.2, W.K.7, SL.K.5 Teachers may have students write, draw, and dictate information explaining the specific Project Noah mission they are researching. For the next generation standards this may be an explanation of the photos and sightings they are recording relating to what animals and plants need to survive. Photos may be a visual display to supplement these requirements.

Math: MP.4, K.CC, K.MD.A.2 Teachers may download data from the project and have students reason quantitatively, using counting, to compare the different types of resources found.

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. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record photos of organisms in different life stages. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.1.7, W.1.8  Students will participate in the shared research of the Project Noah challenge set forth by the teacher. They may research the project and write about it or write a step by step account (with the help of adults) relating to their experience collecting data.

Math: MP.2 Teachers may download data from the specific Project Noah challenge they have set forward for the class. Teachers may create graphs, or ask students to do basic tallying and counting, and ask students to quantatively describe patterns in the numbers of adults, juveniles, larvae, and eggs observed.  

Second Grade:

Next. Gen. Science:  2-LS2-2 Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record photos of plant seeds and organisms dispersing seeds. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class.

2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record of flora and fauna from different local habitats or their schoolyard. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher may add them to the Schoolyard Bioblitz mission. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.2.7, W.2.8, SL.2.5 Students will participate in the shared Project Noah research challenge posed by the teacher relating to either animals dispersing seeds and pollinating plants or the numbers of animals in different habitats. They will form a hypothesis and use data collected to answer the question to the best of their ability. Students will also use photos to supplement visual displays to clarify ideas and experiences.

Math: MP.2, MP.4, 2.MD.D.10 Teachers will download data from the project and ask students to create a picture graph and/or a bar graph to represent data with up to four categories relating to either the pollinator project (see above) or the animal biodiversity project (see above). For example, students may categorize the number of mammals, birds, reptiles/amphibians, and invertebrates recorded in specific habitats. They would then use this information to create graphs.

Third Grade:

Next. Gen. Science:  3-LS3-2 Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record different animals in a variety of environments as a way to discuss their traits and adaptations for those environments. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher (or students) may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class.

Common Core:

Literacy: W.3.1, W.3.2, W.3.9, SL.3.4 Students will participate in the Project Noah research mission that the teacher creates for them relating to different physiological traits found in different habitats or environments. They may research the different traits observed and write an explanatory text to explain the patterns that appeared in the observations. Students may also write an opinion piece on these observations and/or explanatory text about the research methods used to explore this topic.

Math: MP.2, MP.4, 3.MD.B.3 Teachers may help students download data from the Project Noah database, and their project, and then analyze patterns in the data. Students may then create several categories relating to the different traits found in different habitats or environments. They may create a line graph or bar graph of their data.

MIDDLE SCOOL

Next. Gen. Science:  MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record different animals in a variety of trophic levels across different ecosystems. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the students may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class.

Common Core:

Literacy: WHST.6-8.1 Students will conduct a short experiment to answer a question. In this case students may ask about the number of organisms in different trophic levels found in their local ecosystems. They may also use several outside sources to develop questions that will allow for multiple questions or avenues of exploration.

Next. Gen. Science:  MS-LS2-5 Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record biodiversity in a specific ecosystem, or their school yard. Schoolyard sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the teacher may add them to the Schoolyard Bioblitz mission.

Common Core:

Literacy: WHST.6.8-2, WHS.6-8.9, SL8.1, SL.8.4 Students may use the Project Noah challenge, relating to cataloging biodiversity at their chosen research site, as the basis of a research project concerning maintaining biodiversity in a specific ecosystem. They may use literary and biological texts to support their reasoning, as well as collaborative discussion with student groups. They may then present their claims and ideas using research, evidence, and reasoning.

Math: MP.4, 6.RP.A.3 Students may upload data from the Project Noah challenge and then use ratios and reasoning to solve questions about biodiversity in specific ecosystems. They should then use these data sets to support their arguments for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Next. Gen. Science:  MS-LS1-4 Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record different categories of adaptations, such as vocalizations, structure building, mimicry, food rewards, etc. Data may be downloaded and statistically analyzed.

Common Core:

Literacy: WHST.6.8-2, WST.6-8.8, WHST.6.8.9, SL.8.5 Students will participate in the Project Noah challenge to find animal behaviors, relating to probability of reproductive success. They will create a hypothesis, and then write explanatory text and an argument relating to the numbers of animals observed correlated to the specific behavior types. They may use outside sources to support their research and use multimedia to present their findings (supported by pictures from the project and graphs).

Math: MP.4, 6.SP.A.2, 6.SP.B.4, 6.SP.B.5 Students will download numerical information from the Project Noah database/challenge for their class. They will use mathematics and reasoning to describe the pattern of distribution of their results. This analysis will be conducted using charts and graphs of their data.

HIGH SCHOOL (common core not included)

Next. Gen. Science:  HS-LS2-6 Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record biodiversity in a specific ecosystem, or their school yard. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the students may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class to look for trends in population numbers.

Next. Gen. Science:  HS-LS4-3 Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking that trait. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to find and record the abundance of different traits. These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the students may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class to look for trends in the abundance of organism with specific traits.

Next. Gen. Science:  HS-lS4-5 Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species. Teachers may create their own Project Noah classroom mission for students to record the numbers of individuals of specific species in areas with different environmental conditions (for example aquatic insects). These sightings may be uploaded into the classroom mission or the students may add them to up to four other missions on Project Noah. Data may be downloaded and analyzed by the class to determine if there are trends in population numbers of species and how this correlates to environmental conditions.


When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.