Building a Framework for Citizen Science & STEM Learning

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Students participating in Project BudBurst at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of: Project BudBurst

By: Ryan Collay, Mary Ford, Sandra Henderson, Eric Jolly, Nancy Trautmann, and Sarah Kirn

Join the Education Working Group of the Citizen Science Association for the panel discussion – Developing a Framework for Citizen Science in Education – Join the Conversation – on Wed. Feb 11th at 9:55 am. You can also participate in their open conference session on Feb. 12th.

The Education Working Group has been meeting since August of 2014 with a focus of drafting a vision for the role of citizen science in science learning and a framework to help the community achieve this vision. From the outset, our intent has been to tee up ideas for our conversation with the broader citizen science community at the February Citizen Science 2015 Conference in San Jose.

The current education climate seems particularly favorable to integrating citizen science into science learning. There has been a national call for more integrated, engaged, and authentic science learning – in school and out – in acknowledgement of the value to students of learning experiences that span the boundaries of school, home, and community. Citizen science projects offer such opportunities, but not always with explicit supports for science learning.

So how do we help K-12 teachers and out-of-school educators incorporate citizen science as a core strategy to achieve diverse learning outcomes? And how do we help citizen science programs support and engage learning-focused volunteers? We see a significant opportunity for the Citizen Science Association to address these questions. To this end, we have drafted Core Values and Core Practices, which we offer here to invite your feedback (please share your comments!).

DRAFT Core Values:

  1. Supporting civic engagement and scientific literacy through participation in citizen science is essential for society to address wickedly complex problems
  2. Participation by diverse individuals strengthens the value of citizen science to individuals, communities, scientists, and the environment; leverages divergent perspectives; and makes outcomes more robust
  3. Allowing the locus of control over question, direction, and analysis to shift from ‘scientist driven’ to ‘community driven’ invites diverse participation and is essential to extending the benefit of citizen science efforts to diverse audiences
  4. Learning is most effective when it reflects human values and characteristics, including play, joy, inquisitiveness, curiosity, and challenge
  5. Individuals participate in citizen science for a variety of reasons; individual contributions to the scientific process should be respected without regard to background, respecting anonymity or identity as participants choose.

DRAFT Core Practices:

  1. At minimum, locate participants’ activity within the scientific inquiry process; at best, support participants’ through the complete scientific inquiry process
  2. Include diverse learners with varied interests and skills, embrace diverse learning pathways and learning goals
  3. Instill in participants a sense of belonging in the scientific community by enabling authentic, rigorous contributions to research
  4. Facilitate participants’ growing identities as scientists and science-capable learners who see science as part of their lives
  5. Facilitate social interaction among diverse novices, learners, and experts, to foster learning and also to leverage divergent perspectives that will make science and learning outcomes more robust
  6. Reflect the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research by incorporating math, language, literature, and art
  7. Reflect the unpredictable, sometimes messy nature of discovery
  8. Share control over who poses research questions, who analyzes the data, and who benefits from the research

In drafting these lists, we have wrestled with two provocative questions that have relevance well beyond our focus on STEM learning through citizen science:

  1. Who forms the scientific questions that drive each citizen science project, who decides how to analyze the data, and who benefits from these efforts?
  2. In what ways can we work to ensure that citizen science projects are accessible to diverse groups rather than inherently biased towards certain audiences and populations?

Please comment here and join us in San Jose to share your perspectives and shape this ongoing conversation.

Ryan Collay is the Director of Oregon State Universities SMILE Program

Mary Ford is Manager of Citizen Science at National Geographic. Follow her @maryeford

Sandra Henderson is the Director of Citizen Science at the National Ecological Observatory Network

Eric Jolly is President of the Science Museum of Minnesota

Nancy Trautmann the Director of Education at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Sarah Kirn is Education Programs Strategist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Follow Sarah at @sierralimakilo

Posted on: January 22, 2015  |  Category: Blog, Citizen Science Association, CitSci2015, Conference, Education
Tags: citizen science, Citizen Science 2015, CitSci2015, conference