March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Climate Citizen Science for K-12 Students

Posted: Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Minda Barbeco

Engaging students in science can be tricky. Time is limited, the material can be stifling, and students are not always the most willing participants. Moreover, running students through the same experiments with known results doesn’t really demonstrate what science is like in the real world; often, when researchers conduct scientific experiments, the organismsdon’t behave, the chemicals don’t react, the balls don’t roll down the inclined plane at the right speeds. The fact that in actual laboratory work the results don’t always support the hypotheses no doubt comes as a sad realization to many a new researcher – “But my experiments always worked in high school science classes!”

So how can science teachers working with students of all ages engage students in real life science? Citizen science, a new model of enlisting the public in scientific research, has gained recent popularity. If you are science teacher inCalifornia, there are several projects that can get your students involved and most importantly, engaged in science.

Studying Plants and Climate Change

Project BudBurst is a program run by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) for both formal and informal educators. Through this program, teachers take their students out of the classroom to monitor plant development in their schoolyard or neighborhood. This requires students to learn about different stages in plant development, where plants grow, and how climate affects their development. The data from Project BudBurst is available online as well, allowing teachers to use data collected from all over the country to teach students about how a changing climate affects plants all across the U.S. Courses on how to collect and use the data in your classroom are available through the NEON citizen science academy.

Tracking Test Gardens

As schoolyard gardens are gaining popularity across California, there are many ways to use them to develop hypotheses to learn about how microclimates affect plant life. Students can create their own notebooks to observe field conditions and how they change through the school year, analyze microclimates, make predictions for the season, and track developmental events. As flowers start to pop out this spring, they can also observe pollinators visiting their plots to understand more about biotic relationships and plant development. For suggestions on creating your own hypothesis-generating science notebook, check out: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/tulips/observe.html

Study Animal Migration

As your students are huddled in the classroom, animals outside are scuttling, soaring, or swimming around, migrating up and down the coast with the changing seasons. An hour of time collecting population data on these critters could be the jumping-off point for abundant investigations into animal physiology and behavior. Through the organization Journey North, you can investigate the movement of robins, the appearance of earthworms, and the migration of monarchs as these animals respond to changing seasons. The data can then be used to chart changes in population density through the year, track short-term migration patterns or incorporated into larger datasets to see how migration has changed over recent years with a changing climate. More information on Journey North’s program is available at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

Engaging students in citizen science teaches them, in real-life settings, how experiments are designed, data are collected, and information is analyzed. Taking students through the different steps in a field setting helps them build their understanding of how science works, how researchers study organisms, and about the organisms themselves. There are ample opportunities to use these investigative techniques to teach students about the world around them, while supporting the larger scientific community as a whole. And who knows, maybe some of your students will one day become researchers who look back at the data they collected as citizen scientists as the bedrock of their scientific studies.

Minda Barbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is CSTA’s Region 2 Director.

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California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Marian Murphy-Shaw

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Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.