January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Citizen Science Resolved: 2013 from the Birds to the Bees

Posted: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

by Bethany Dixon

“They’re eating the berries!  The robins are eating the berries off the trees!”  My normally sleepy first-hour biology class was outside. “There are the cedar waxwings!” “ Shhh! You’re too loud –  you’re gonna scare them away! There they go!” Half a dozen waxwings flit across the parking lot from one clump of trees to another, attempting to avoid the 32 “researchers” during their ten-minute bird count.  Our students use Cornell University’s Celebrate Urban Birds Checklist to count how many of their 16 focal species are in and around our school parking lot. It’s this class’ first foray into citizen science, but those familiar with the Audubon Society’s 113-year-old Christmas Bird Count know that using laypeople to collect large amounts of data is not a new idea. What is exciting is that now anyone with internet access and fifteen minutes can tap into a huge network of citizen science projects; and it isn’t just birds.

NSTA’s December issue of The Science Teacher highlighted a potpourri of options for citizen science, and training for programs range from complex 10-week naturalist training courses to simple web-based tutorials for solar storm identification. Even if you aren’t participating directly, your computer or gaming console can participate for you through folding-at-home and other public distributed computing efforts.  Cornell’s Ornithology Lab’s Celebrate Urban Birds is a national project, but state and local projects abound close to home in California. For example, the University of California Naturalist program features 140 citizen science projects ready for participants, most of which accept students as researchers.  From monitoring squirrels, frogs, ants, or invasive spiders to counting craters on the moon, identifying Martian terrain, or searching for supernovae, the opportunities for involvement are staggering.

Citizen science projects are appropriate for all levels, and Cornell’s Citizen Science Resources page shows older students interested in research design how to “Organize and implement initiatives where volunteers are involved scientific research.”

Active participation in research builds student confidence in their scientific abilities and activities like making observations, collecting data, and analyzing results are often much more memorable to students in the field than in the classroom. Building experience and familiarity with research processes helps increase scientific literacy and even builds relationships within the community as students volunteer with other citizen scientists.  Collecting data for ongoing research also helps students understand how investigations are designed and what parameters are important for generating a fair test.  As we collect data for the Celebrating Urban Birds investigation in my high school classes, we discussed how the scientists might have selected certain species over others and ways that scientists might use our data.

As you make your teaching resolutions for the New Year, consider adding a citizen science project to your repertoire. As we trekked across the parking lot and back to the classroom, students compared checklists and watched a turkey vulture spiral around the building. “I’ll bet it’s going to eat that bird that ran into Ms. Leonard’s window yesterday during algebra!”  “Gross, no way!” “Ms. Dixon, do you think it will?” It might, I say, if it’s still there. As we head upstairs I hear plans hatching for bird-related science projects, and the next day a student rushes up to me in the hall, “I showed the cedar waxwing to my mom this morning! They’re still out in the parking lot!” All this, and fostering communication between high school students and their parents? Maybe my New Year’s resolution to make the world a better place isn’t so far out of reach.

Links:

Audubon Society: http://birds.audubon.org/get-involved-christmas-bird-count-find-count-near-you

University of California Naturalist Link: http://ucanr.edu/sites/UCCNP/California_PPSR/

Cornell’s Citizen Science Pages: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=708

Cornell’s Citizen Science Resources: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/resources

Celebrate Urban Birds: http://celebrateurbanbirds.org/about/resources/get-your-kit/

NSTA’s December issue blog: http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2012/12/22/citizen-science-2/

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.