What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science is a key component in working towards the new approach to K-12 Science Education called for by the NRC (2013). Citizen science invites regular people of any age – children, teens, and adults – to contribute to real scientific research projects, promoting scientific awareness and engagement. Typically, citizen scientists submit their observations of something (ex: the surface of Mars, clouds, squirrels) to a central database, which professional scientists use and analyze as part of their research. Citizen science projects span the scientific spectrum, and options can be found that align with any of the Next Generation Science Standards Disciplinary Core Ideas. With the help of people like you and I, exciting new discoveries and important contributions to the fields of science are made every day.

Student Inquiry Through Citizen Science

Citizen science investigations require students to ask questions and find their own answers, which exemplifies the tenants of inquiry-based science instruction. Along the way, students will employ many of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts in authentic and novel ways. The power of citizen science investigations is not necessarily the science content, but its ability to make science content meaningful and relevant on a personal level, opening new worlds of exploration, interest, and opportunity.

“Instead of memorizing the ‘scientific method’, students engage in investigations and discover for themselves the multifaceted nature of scientific research. This directly supports the Next Generation Science Standards mandate for students not only to know scientific concepts, but also to ‘use their understanding to investigate the natural world through the practices of science inquiry’. Students are motivated knowing that their data will be used to address real-world issues of local and global concern.”

Cornell Lab of Orinthology, 2015

For learners of all ages, citizen science projects provide exciting opportunities to connect with the environment and the world in real, meaningful, and fun ways. Participating in citizen science projects can provide much-needed context to the learning of science content, bringing what is learned in the classroom to life. When students can see real-world applications of science, and can then actually contribute to the scientific research, powerful and inspiring learning opportunities are born.

Best Citizen Science Resources

Ready to get started with some citizen science investigations?  Click here for my list of the Top Five Citizen Science Starters. Have fun!