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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.