Citizen Science: Engaging Students Through Public Collaboration in Scientific Research

Citizen ScienceToo often, students think of science as a static collection of facts rather than an ongoing process of discovery in which they can play a part. Citizen science offer opportunities for students to engage in authentic investigations. Citizen science activities vary widely, depending on goals of the project and interests of individual participants. In Citizen Science: 15 Lessons That Bring Biology to Life, 6-12, editors Nancy Trautmann, Jennifer Fee, Terry Tomasek, and NancyLee Bergey present case studies that present specific ways to build citizen science data collection and analysis into your science teaching.
As the editors explain,

“Citizen science offers teachers a way to motivate and inspire students through participation in research that is relevant both locally and globally. Students build meaningful connections to the natural world as they make observations, collect data, and view their findings within the broader scope of the project. When students design and conduct their own investigations, they also build science practice understandings and analytical reasoning skills through their involvement in citizen science.”

Citizen science refers to efforts in which volunteers partner with professional scientists to collect to analyze data. Students, the general public, and even professional scientists can all be citizen scientists. The word citizen conveys the idea that anybody can participate in the collective enterprise of science, just as all citizens in a democracy are invited to vote and otherwise collaborate in building their government.
Perhaps the most common activity of citizen science is data collection.  Beyond collecting information on individual species or groups, citizen scientists also monitor environmental conditions such as water quality. Participants in some projects contribute to scientific discoveries by helping to analyze what would otherwise be unmanageable amounts of data.
The 15 lessons in this book portray a rich diversity of ways in which students can both contribute to citizen science and make productive use of its outputs, learning science and math through working with real data and engaging in authentic practices of science. Whether the lesson plans is Turtle Trackers, Winter Twig Investigation, Bird Migration Patterns in My Area, or one of the many others that were selected through a competition for high-quality lessons, what better way to fulfill the NGSS mandate to couple science practice with content and give students a real-world context in which to apply what they are learning?
This book is also available as an e-book.

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