Science isn’t just a subject in school. It’s a body of knowledge studied by people all over the world. Your middle schoolers can participate in real science collaboration by collecting data and contributing to citizen science. Participating in citizen science with middle schoolers gives them a sense of how big the scientific community is and how important making observations and reporting what you know is in the real world of science.
How do you do citizen science?
The goals of citizen science includes engaging the American public in addressing societal needs and accelerating science understanding. Students as young as middle schoolers can participate in addressing real world problems. Most projects take 5-10 minutes and actually contribute data that real live scientists can use.
CitizenScience.gov is an official government website which collects and curates a catalog of federally supported citizen science projects. Currently, there are 493 crowdsourced projects available for citizen participation.
Here are some citizen science activities for your middle schoolers:
Globe At Night – this project crowd sources data on light pollution. Students connect to the Globe at Night project page with their Smart phones and record their observations at night, including the location, date and time. They use a universal Sky Quality Meter or select a constellation chart that most closely resembles their view at the moment.
NoiseTube is a crowd sourced data collection site to report on noise pollution. Students connect to the Globe at Night project page with their Smart phones and
iNaturalist is a catalog of wildlife photos collected by citizen scientists throughout the world. Your students can contribute their photos taken on a field trip or in their own backyards. Experts can help students identify the organisms they observed and, in return, the photos students take can be used by the experts in studying populations of different species. There is also a fun gallery of recent photos that can be sorted by location. I found some photos submitted right from my own neighborhood!
InstantWild and Wildwatch Kenya are easy ways for students to help researchers track animal populations without leaving their classrooms – I use it for “what to do when you’re done” time. Students watch 60 second video clips of various areas and tag the animals they see and hopefully identify them using various clues.
S’Cool is a NASA research opportunity in which students report the cloud cover and type of clouds they are witnessing at their location.
Does Crowdsourcing Citizen Science Work?
Unequivocally, YES! There are dozens of case studies published at CitizenScience.gov that illustrate the value added by students contributing data to the global understanding of wildly varied scientific research projects. Cases reported upon include a Smithsonian Transcription project in which volunteers decoded the handwriting of various documents recorded by artists, scientists, inventors and explorers of history. Other cases report analyses of weather reports and earthquakes, Monarch butterfly migration, seasonal changes, and bird population data.