5 Ways to Get Your Students Involved in Citizen Science

Nov. 15, 2016

A great way to get started with active learning is to get your students involved in citizen science. Active learning and citizen science go hand in hand—through crowdsourced data gathering, students can discover and make meaningful contributions to the greater body of scientific knowledge. In March 2016, ASM’s open-access Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education (JMBE) published a special issue on Scientific Citizenship. Since then, it’s become our most-viewed issue! Below are five articles that will help you get started engaging your students (K-12 through undergraduate, and lifelong learners too) in the excitement of participating in authentic research projects.

THE USE OF ONLINE CITIZEN-SCIENCE PROJECTS TO PROVIDE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NONMAJOR SCIENCE STUDENTS

D.M. Kridelbaugh; Level: Undergraduate

This activity uses online citizen science projects to engage nonmajor science students, who typically do not have many opportunities to participate in research. Through projects on topics including public health and digitization of historical handwritten scientific records, students learn that anyone can be a scientist and practice science communication skills by evaluating their projects and presenting their results.

REAL-LIFE SCIENCE WITH DANDELIONS AND PROJECT BUDBURST

K.A. Johnson; Level: Grade 4–lifelong learners

Project BudBurst tracks bloom times and other phenological data for plants across the U.S. to measure the effects of climate change. An activity that’s particularly appropriate for younger students uses the common dandelion, which easy to identify and has distinct phenophases (such as first flower, full flower, and first fruit).

USING CITIZEN SCIENCE TO ENGAGE INTRODUCTORY STUDENTS: FROM STREAMS TO THE SOLAR SYSTEM

C. Cardamone and L. Lobel; Level: Undergraduate

This article aligns two citizen science activities for introductory students (on the solar system and water quality monitoring) with strategies shown to increase retention of underrepresented minority students and improve learning for all students. A feature of these activities (and of citizen science in general) that is particularly attractive to students is the fact that the data they collect are used for real-life, practical scientific applications.

GAMES THAT ENLIST COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE TO SOLVE COMPLEX SCIENTIFIC PROBLEMS

S. Burnett et al.; Level: Grades 6-12, Undergraduate

Serious games are a popular, and important, classroom tool. This article discusses four online citizen science games related to biological and biochemical processes. Some of the games have pedagogical content included, while others require little scientific background knowledge but can be built upon in the classroom. The authors discuss the benefits of various games, including social components that encourage students to continue playing (and learning).  

TOOLS FOR CITIZEN-SCIENCE RECRUITMENT AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT IN YOUR RESEARCH AND IN YOUR CLASSROOM

S.E. Council and J.E. Horvath; Level: All (public)

Using their citizen science-based research project on the human armpit microbiome as an example,  the authors of this article share techniques and tools for recruiting citizen scientists to your project, including partnerships with museums and other organizations, social media, incentives, public talks, a project website, and more. They also discuss ways to integrate citizen science into the classroom. 


Author: Bethany Adamec

Bethany Adamec
Bethany Adamec is a Science Education Specialist at ASM, where she communicates about ASM’s work in student and faculty professional development, supports the ASM Education Board, and works with colleagues to promote evidence-based education reform.