The rise of citizen science projects has helped working scientists extend their reach through simply having more people on the ground contributing to data. This is your students chance to contribute to real scientific research and in doing so get a sense of genuine accomplishment as they’re doing something ‘real’. Joining in citizen science projects not only teaches your students scientific thinking, it also teaches them to care for their world and create lasting links with responsible citizens working to make a difference. The following lists some of the projects available to your students, for simplicity I have listed mostly Australian sites however a quick Google search will have you finding plenty of programs in your neighbourhood… if there are none, perhaps you could establish one yourself!
Bird monitoring surveys and conservation activities.
Simply get in touch with your local bird watching groups to find out what you and your student’s families can do to help out. Students will learn not only to take accurate recordings bird species they see in their own area but also discover how connected their community is to the rest of the country as they see how migratory bird populations change throughout the year.
Kookaburra sitting in open woodland
Check out Birdlife Australia for more information
This is an interesting project whereby people take photos of the seafloor and submit them to marine biologists to catalogue the organisms present. This project might be of interest to your budding snorkelers and it’s a great way for students and their family to contribute to biological research. Of course, anything to do with water comes with safety risks and so you should insist that they collect data with experienced adult swimmers in areas where there are no rips or other strong water currents.
Check out Explore the Seafloor for more details
A long standing project on water quality monitoring, your student learn the impacts of urban development on aquatic ecosystems as they measure biotic and abiotic indicators of the health of their local creeks and rivers. Supported by the Australian Museum, this program is fantastic for teaching biodiversity and more.
Learning to appreciate how water quality affect ecosystems
Check out Australian Museum for more details
Run by the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO), your students can collect found near and within wetlands around Australia and end them in to nuclear scientists who’ll analyse them in an effort to track populations in order to protect waterbird habitats. Not only easy to engage in, this project also teaches students that nuclear scientists don’t just work on reactors and weapons.
Check out ANSTO for more details
Using a computer or a tablet and an internet connection, your students can help astronomers classify galaxies from data collected from a range of telescopes. Big data is a big problem and so your students help will certainly alleviate some of the load! The information collected will help scientists learn more about how galaxies grow and evolve.
Check out Galaxy Explorer for more details
Another fauna citizen science project! This time your students can pour over the millions of photo graphs of rainforest, woodlands and more in search of bandicoots, bettongs, malleefowl and more.
Echidna shuffling along the ground
Check out Wildlife Spotter for more details
If your students are lucky enough to live near a reef system they may have the chance to out to the Great Barrier Reef. If so, perhaps they could help researchers monitor animal behaviours and distributions. Sun & science, got to love that!
Under the sea!
Check out REEFSearch for more details
Search through old ship’s log books to pull out weather information that can be used for climate change research. Combining science, history and sleuthing skills, perhaps this project might grab your kids imagination?
Check out Weather Detective for more details
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project has generated enormous amounts of data that needs to be sifted through since its inception since the first search in 1959. SETI@Home was one of the first citizen science projects whereby you can donate latent computer processing power of your computer towards searching through radio signals collected by telescopes for a potential chance to find intelligent extra-terrestrial life! This project offers the opportunity for you to discuss the possibilities of life beyond Earth and what the requirements are for life as we know it.
Radio telescope at Parkes, NSW
Check out SETI@home here
… and the list goes on! There are literally hundreds and hundreds of citizen science projects that your class can get involved in, it’s just a matter of being aware of what is available and choosing a project that you feel meets the curriculum needs of your students. With a little help and some adult supervision, your budding young scientists can participate in real science and contribute to their community and beyond.
Support networks to check out:
- Australian Citizen Science Association
- Atlas of Living Australia
- Australian Museum Centre for Citizen Science
- Discovery Circle
You can also find out more about citizen science opportunities & entrepreneurial thinking on the FizzicsEd podcast, where we chat with NSW Manager for Inspiring Australia Jackie Randles.
Without a doubt I will not have covered all of the amazing citizen science projects happening around the world. Why not share what you know? Feel free to put down your favourite citizen science projects in the comments section below so that other readers can find out how they can help!
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