May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Engaging Students in the Classroom, Field, and Beyond: The Role of Multimedia in Citizen Science

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Emily Gottlieb and Monika Krach

“Isn’t it amazing how the position of the sun and the moon in the universe can affect the lives of little creatures like these sand crabs?” narrates one high school student in a self-directed and produced video entitled, “What the Ocean Means to Us.” The students who created this video participated in a citizen science program called LiMPETS, Long Term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students. Last school year, LiMPETS began to incorporate multimedia projects to enhance students’ citizen science experience. LiMPETS now uses a suite of multimedia tools to train students and teachers before they go out into the field. After their field experience, blogging, video projects and scientific posters encourage students to think critically about their experience in order to communicate it. This is all part of LiMPETS larger effort to support classroom science. As students engage authentically with science through research and multimedia communication, they become empowered as young scientists and environmental stewards.

Citizen science engages students or volunteers to contribute to scientific inquiry by collecting or processing data (Silverton 2009). Created in 2002, LiMPETS was one of the earliest citizen science programs geared towards students. California’s National Marine Sanctuaries combined two student-driven coastal monitoring programs, rocky intertidal and sandy beach monitoring, which were initially developed by Dr. John Pearse and Dr. Jennifer Salzman, respectively. LiMPETS is run collaboratively by California’s National Marine Sanctuaries, Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, and the Marine Science Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The program aims to increase our understanding of California’s coastal ecology while engaging students in authentic scientific data collection.

Citizen science programs continue to expand as they gain traction in the scientific community and in classrooms. In the 2014-2015 school year, LiMPETS trained approximately 5,500 teachers and students from 13 counties in California. Citizen science programs like LiMPETS can continue to grow and support classroom science by using multimedia tools to train students for scientific data collection. This year LiMPETS piloted multimedia training tools for teachers and students to use in the classroom before they go out to collect data used to monitor sandy beach and rocky intertidal ecosystems. These materials include a dynamic presentation that incorporates video, graphics, text and online quizzes that provide students and teachers with immediate feedback about their preparedness to conduct field research. These multimedia training resources are aimed at increasing students’ understanding of the scientific process and improving the quality of data that student citizen scientists collect.

The LiMPETS program has also piloted student multimedia projects to help students expand upon what they learn leading up to and during their field experience. Accessible media platforms, like blogs and social media; increasingly affordable communication technology, like small waterproof cameras; and even more traditional science communication tools, like scientific posters; put the power of scientific communication to a wider audience into students’ hands. The LiMPETS website features student videos and blogs. One student-authored blog, Beyonce’s Hit Single: Female Sand Crabs Run the World, explores abundance of gravid female sand crabs at one beach over a ten year period. Students used LiMPETS data to create graphs to examine years with high numbers of gravid females and total abundance of crabs in subsequent years. They also discuss the potential impacts of seasonal variation and climate change on the sandy beach ecosystem.

This year, eleven LiMPETS students presented research posters at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Currents Symposium. Their posters, documenting trends in sea star wasting, predator-prey dynamics in the intertidal, and parasite prevalence in Pacific mole crabs, were among only 50 posters accepted for the Symposium. One student team, comprised of high school interns from the California Academy of Sciences, won an award for their outstanding poster. After a busy poster session, one LiMPETS student excitedly said to his teacher, “I NEVER thought I would get so into this. I mean [to his teacher] you didn’t think I’d ever get so into this, right?” Multimedia projects allow students creativity in demonstrate their knowledge in authentic ways and to a broader audience, beyond the scope of a lab report or a test.

Citizen science programs like LiMPETS give students a unique lens through which to explore the natural world, the lens of a field scientist. Through this lens, students take a focused look at the natural environment and the systems therein. When they are challenged by multimedia projects to reflect on their new scientific world view, they think critically about what they have experienced in the field and they find creative ways to communicate their new-found knowledge. This challenge of knowledge acquisition and communication is integral to the scientific process. As schools in California, and nationwide, adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, students are called to engage in the scientific process, rather than just reading about it in a textbook. This call can be answered by the integration of multimedia communication into science projects.

In the student directed video “What the Ocean Means to Us,” students talk about sand crabs, the tiny but critical inhabitants of the sandy beach ecosystem, and describe how all things, big and small, are connected “in a delicately balanced web.” The video ends by asking viewers to consider “what footprint will you leave?” The use of multimedia in citizen science programs may enhance students’ preparedness and experience in the field, encourage students to consider their own paths in the sciences and maybe even their own footprints in the environment.

Emily Gottlieb is the LiMPETS Program Coordinator at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, and can be contacted at

Monika Krach is the Science Education and Technology Specialist at the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association.

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:

One Response

  1. Em….loved your erudite article!!!!! You know that Helen Friedman was an excellent writer. You have good Friedman genes. Love BFS

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.