What is a citizen scientist, you ask? Good question, considering April is citizen science month! According to National Geographic, citizen science is a “science project or program where volunteers who are not scientists conduct surveys, take measurements, or record observations.” (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/citizen-science/)
I believe we are all scientists since we all observe our natural world, interpret what we see, and then adjust that interpretation as we get new information. So… I would make one small update to their definition and add “professional” in front of scientists.
How to Start: Decide what type of citizen science opportunity looks interesting. Below are some guiding questions that can help you figure it out.
- Do you want to participate in a one-time activity? Periodic activity? Daily activity?
- Do you want to make a few quick observations? More in-depth observations?
- What subject area interests you most? Do you like to study animals? The weather? History?
- In what subject area do you have the most experience? Your answer can be the same as, or very different from, the question above.
- Did you answer “I don’t know” to any of the questions above? If so, great!!! Yup, you heard me, I said great! Most people I know have heard me say that “I don’t know” is my FAVORITE scientific answer! All scientists use that answer as their first step in learning something new. And yes, it is okay to say “I don’t know”. Not everyone knows everything and anyone who says they do, well… let’s just say I wouldn’t believe that.
What to do next: Take your answers from above and look into citizen science networks. As a start, check out the list under “STEAM Resources” below. Try to match your answers to a citizen science activity. Or, completely ignore your answers and just look through the available opportunities and find something fun!
Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?
What activity did you choose? What area does it focus on? Are there other areas that are also addressed?
- Science: What areas of science are being observed?
- Technology: What technologies are you using?
- Engineering: How were these technologies you listed above made?
- Arts: Is there art in science? Look around, what do you see?
- Math: Same as in “Science” above. What area(s) of math is(are) you using?
- United States Geological Society list of opportunities: https://www.usgs.gov/science-support/osqi/youth-education-science/citizen-science
- CitizenScience.org list of events and information: https://www.citizenscience.org/events/
- Citizen Science Alliance information and projects list: https://www.citizensciencealliance.org/
- Zooniverse (the project list from the Citizen Science Alliance): https://www.zooniverse.org/
- CitizenScience.org Catalog of opportunities validated by the federal government: https://www.citizenscience.gov/catalog/#