Making Citizen Science Relevant to the Classroom

I have come to notice that there is a common theme for students when they are asked what they see when they think of a scientist: they picture a man in a lab coat spending time in a lab.

This is a problem!  Being a scientist does not mean you have to be stuck in a lab wearing a lab coat, or a male.  Females can be scientists too, and are scientists.  Rosalind Franklin, under-recognized in my humble opinion, helped pave the way for what we know about the structure of DNA.  Yet moving past the current idea of who a scientist is and what he does (I say “he” because rarely would my students say “she”) is proving tricky.

This is the very reason that citizen science projects are such an amazing tool to bring not only to the school but to the community because truly anyone can be a scientist and contribute real scientific data to the lead scientists on the projects.  Students will hopefully come to see that many scientists wear comfortable clothes and sensible shoes to travel outside and get down and dirty while collecting samples and data to further their research.  Yes, time is spent in the lab, but not always.

Student Discover: Ants, my amazing team, are developing lessons that utilize a new program, CODAP, being developed to make the Ant Picnic data accessible to anyone and can be utilized in the science classroom as well as math classrooms running statistics and using different methods to draw different connections from the data.  We are also creating a lesson plan to bring “Invisible Pathogens” citizen science project into the classroom to try and assess the health of ants in different areas and what types of fungi they might encounter.  We will be piloting this lesson in our classrooms and tweaking to make accessible to anyone who would like to use it.

The success on the projects will come from having lessons that are easy to follow and teachers can utilize the lesson easily in their classrooms.  We will have to have a list of materials they will need and ways for them to obtain them.  The lesson has to align with teacher standards as time is of the utmost importance in a classroom and we want to best fit the teachers’ needs.

Success will also stem from student engagement and interest.  These lessons are designed to spark new interests in science and hopefully feed their natural curiosity.

Ants are not normally an animal of interest to people.  We are about to change that! 🙂

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