Teaching Kids to be Citizen Scientists
This past school year I started a bird club at Wade Carpenter Middle School in an effort to get students to participate in citizen science. Citizen science is collaborative networking between scientists and everyday citizens. Through citizen science people can contribute to scientific data. For example, citizens use eBird to share sightings so that scientists get an idea where populations of birds are located. Teaching kids about citizen science not only inspires them to pursue science careers but connects them with nature. When we start as kids we may be more inclined to be citizen scientists for the rest of our lives.
Students had a wonderful time participating in the bird club. We did all kinds of projects including participating in the schools science fair and taking top honors in the Friends of the Santa Cruz river art contest. But one of our biggest contributions was entering our sightings on eBird. Students spent time counting the number of each species of birds and making sure to correctly identify the bird using their field guide. We bird watched twice a week from August until the week before finals in May. My students learned how to identify birds based on shape, size, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. We also feed birds at our school campus and visited Las Lagunas de Anza (a lagoon located near our school) to bird watch. It was an amazing experience to see my students gain an interest in local birds and have them participate in a citizen science project that contributes to scientific research.
My work here at Tumacacori National Historical Park deals with creating a curriculum for the Santa Cruz river. Much of the program is centered in a citizen science project. Through this program I hope to inspire kids to perform citizen science and contribute to scientific research. Using citizen science becomes a hands on way to educate kids about the environment and science, and gives them a personal sense of nature.