September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.