Archive for the ‘education’ tag

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

By March 28th, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Comment

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.

 

 

Po Bhattacharyya

Po designs curriculum and learning tools in the education technology space. He is passionate about science education and committed to developing educational products that are engaging, market-disruptive, and accessible. At his current role as Instructional Design Lead at the California Academy of Sciences, he builds curriculum for youth and educators in the Science Action Club network.

 

Citizen Scientists, Citizen Educators

By December 3rd, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Comment

When most people think about citizen scientists, they tend to think of them as data collectors, volunteering their time to report wildlife sightings, gather microbe samples, or transcribe old weather reports. It’s true that data collection is the primary task of most citizen scientists, but many volunteers take their participation a step further by designing experiments, analyzing data, and conducting education and outreach. The last task is the one that I think is the most interesting and accessible to citizen scientists.

Citizen science volunteers have the potential to play a significant role in outreach and education. Many citizen scientists are truly passionate about the projects with which they volunteer, and that passion leads them to share their project’s mission, key questions, and recent findings with others. Even participants who only dabble with a project can describe their experiences to friends and family. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to School with Citizen Science!

By September 8th, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Comment

As students head back to school, more and more teachers are using citizen science in their classrooms to give students authentic science experiences.
Below, our editors highlight some of the many excellent citizen science projects that work well in classrooms. You can find even more with the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Citizen Science

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Enlisting youth citizen scientists to combat Zika

By September 1st, 2016 at 10:49 am | Comment

Going out of your way to attract mosquitoes seems like the last thing anyone would want to do, but that is exactly what the national Invasive Mosquito Project is hoping volunteers will do in the name of public health.

Managed through the United States Department of Agriculture, the Invasive Mosquito Project aims to track the spread of invasive container-breeding mosquitoes – those whose females lay eggs in the standing water that collects in containers such as vases, rain barrels, and even pool or boat covers. The introduction of many non-native species often coincides with the introduction of new pathogens, and mosquitoes are notorious for playing host to a number of these, including the viruses responsible for West Nile, dengue and most recently in the news, Zika.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why do some tree leaves turn red?

By September 17th, 2013 at 11:43 am | Comments (6)

SciStarter has a whole round-up of tree-related projects for you this season. Branch out into citizen science!

maple-tree-leaves-in-autumn-110661300185760w40

Walking around my neighborhood the other day, I was casually observing the local flora when I was struck by the redness of one particular set of leaves. While the tree pictured is not the exact one I spied upon, look at how vibrant these colors are! I began to wonder why this tree turned red while the others around it stayed orange and yellow. To begin, we must learn about why autumn leaves deviate from their greener shades in the first place.

As you probably already know, the color that most plants have is derived from chlorophyll, the yellow-green pigment found in chloroplasts responsible for allowing photosynthesis to take place. If you’ve forgotten how this process works, Crash Course Biology has a great video for this. While there are multiple forms of chlorophyll, it is generally true that most reflect green light, causing for plants to appear the way they do. (This raises the even better question of why aren’t plants black, but that deserves its own post.)

So, what happens to the chlorophyll as we approach the cooler months? When the temperature drops, deciduous plants slow the production of chlorophyll in preparation for the dormant period they will undergo during the winter. The plants will then be able to conserve energy by halting all photosynthetic processes during the lack of available sunlight. As this happens, orange and yellow carotenoids present in the leaves are exposed. These are pigments that are normally produced in leaves that help to absorb additional energy from the sun that is passed along to the chlorophyll and also to prevent auto-oxidation (basically the wear down of cells due to free radicals) from occurring. In addition to all of this, the plant begins to produce a cell wall between the stem and the leaf called an abscission layer. This will eventually cause for the leaf to be completely separated from the plant, allowing for it to fall to the ground.

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.24.16 AM

Absorption spectrum of chlorophyll A & B

Okay. We’ve covered green, orange, and yellow, but what produced the scarlet beauty found above and why doesn’t it occur in all trees? The answer is anthocyanins. If you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, raspberry, pomegranate, or any other fruit that can stain your hands and clothes, you’re probably already familiar with these little molecules. These pigments are similar to the carotenoids mentioned above but serve a different purpose. In cases during the late summer when plants are beginning to slow their photosynthetic processes but there is still plenty of sunlight abound, the leaves can actually be harmed by receiving too much high-intensity light in the region of Photosystem II (photoinhibition). In order to prevent this damage, the plant begins to synthesize anthocyanins to permeate through the leaves’ surfaces. Because of its red color, the pigment absorbs a large amount of the high energy visible and ultraviolet photons striking the plant, basically acting as a “plant sunscreen.” (Check out how you can even build your own anthocyanin-based solar cell!) Additionally, anthocyanins are good indicators of plant stressors including freezing temperatures and low nutrient levels.

Next time you see a particularly red tree, make sure to think about its environment! Does it receive an abundance of light? Has it been particularly cold? Feel free to comment with links to your own pictures of vibrant trees and plants!

Just like leaves, citizen science also happens to grow on trees! Don’t believe us? Check out our tree projects round-up!

References:

Why do leaves change color and turn red?

Carotenoid-to-chlorophyll energy transfer

Understanding Vegetation and Its Reflectance Properties

Winter Adaptations of Trees

Photo: Public Domain Pictures, Wikipedia


This was a guest post by Joe Diaz, a science educator and enthusiast. Follow @RealJoeDiaz. View the original post.