Archive for the ‘National Science Teachers Association’ tag

Citizen Scientists Go Back to School

By September 10th, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Comment

It happens every year, and you’re right: it’s just not fair. After nearly three months of uninterrupted fun, gone are the barbeques, ball games and pool parties that dominated the summer schedule just as Labor Day signals the sudden arrival of the shorter, colder, and more structured days of the school year. But before you cast yourself into the depths of the autumn blues, rest assured that we are working hard to make this year’s science lessons a little different and—especially if you like nature and the outdoors—a little more fun!

Below is our third annual “Back-to-School” list of projects recommended to get teachers and students thinking about how to incorporate citizen science in the classroom. Check out our previous installments (2011, 2010) for additional ideas.

Participate in Project BudBurst: The National Ecological Observatory Network invites student citizen scientists to submit their observations of the phenophases (leafing, flowering, fruit ripening) of local grasses, shrubs and trees. This data will be compiled and compared to historical figures to help scientists learn more about the responsiveness of specific plant species to climate change. Their teachers, meanwhile, might consider enrolling in the BudBurst Academy, an online course for K-12 educators providing all the necessary information for implementing Project Budburst and engaging in citizen science in your classroom.

Plan your own BioBlitz: Even (or perhaps especially) if you missed the 2012 BioBlitz co-hosted by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society, consider planning your own in your own neighborhood or schoolyard. These biodiversity snapshots provide valuable data for analysis of local species and their habitats.

Count some bugs: Don’t let those math skills go to waste! SciStarter features several opportunities to count stuff, particularly insects and other creepy crawlies. Just pick your favorite: dragonflies, butterflies, bumble bees, spiders, ants, and worms.

Heads up: So bugs aren’t you’re thing. No problem. How about some astronomy? You can grow tomatoes to assess the feasibility of long-term space travel; search for the compound that stores solar power and thus solves the world’s energy crisis; craft a story about your favorite astronomical bodies; or help astronomers search for and identify new planets and stars!

Be a mapmaker: The U.S. Geological Survey is considering the restoration of The National Map Corps, its volunteer mapping initiative, launching a pilot program in the state of Colorado. Anyone with an Internet connection can update the national map, adding the important man-made structures throughout the community such as hospitals, fire stations, and schools. The USGS could expand the program into other areas in the future if its initial efforts are successful. Come on Colorado!


Snap a picture and measure albedo!

By June 14th, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Comments (4)

Turn a piece of paper into scientific data!

Turn a piece of paper into scientific data!

Wherever you are – anywhere in the world – on June 21st consider taking and submitting a photo of a blank white piece of paper between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.

Your photo will not be just a picture of a pretty white piece of paper, it will be scientific data used to calculate earth’s albedo – the proportion of solar energy that bounces back out to space when it hits the Earth’s surface.

For three years Dr. Kathleen Gorski and her students at Wilbraham and Monson Academy near Springfield, MA have been snapping pictures of white paper and using them to measure albedo by comparing the white paper to the surrounding ground surface.

Now they are opening the project up to anyone who would like to participate!

Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Stick a reminder in your calendar for Tuesday June 21, 2011 between 5:00-8:00 pm so that you don’t forget. (Note: I added this step to Kathleen’s instructions because I know I will need a reminder!)
  2. Put a white card (index or business cards work well) on any ground surface with the white side facing up.
  3. Snap a digital photo. No particular position for the camera is required. Just hold it, look down, and take the shot. (Kathleen has found that any camera will do – a cell phone or SLR will both work. And any resolution will be fine.)
  4. Email the photo to
  5. 5. Include the location (either your city and state or your latitude and longitude).

Kathleen and her students will analyze the data, comparing the response of the white card to the response of the ground surface in each photograph using ImageJ software and will depict the data points on a map. They will be posting the results this summer or fall on a new project website, and Kathleen will be presenting about the project to teachers at the National Science Teachers Association meeting in Hartford, CT in the fall.

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