Be a scientist in real life!

 

I have often talked about the scientific explorations of young children and referred to children as born scientists. Their curiosity, ability to engage in their own explorations and investigations, and make their own discoveries can be encouraged by adults who welcome their questions and become co-investigators.

I recently read a post on The School Bell, An Official Blog of Harris County Department of Education that excited me about ways of maintaining that engagement. The post, contributed by Lisa Felske, is entitled Kids Count: Let them Be Citizen Scientists. Lisa says that there of hundreds of projects children can get involved with, some for the long-term as a classroom project, and others that can be conducted independently. They are all real projects that help researchers collect and analyse data.

Lisa says,

“For students, participation can make them feel connected to a community or a place far from home and can give them the satisfaction of knowing they have made a small but important contribution to real science.”

How exciting to be part of a real project, collecting data that will make a difference to our world.

Lisa says that one of her favourites is “Penguin Watch, which allows students to monitor penguins in remote regions by looking at still images and counting the number of adults, chicks and eggs seen in the photos.”

I imagine many children would be interested in that too. But when you follow the link to Penguin Watch you find it is only a small part of the Zooniverse, “a collection of web-based citizen science projects that use the efforts of volunteers to help researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them”. With projects ranging from astronomy to zoology, you could say there is something for everyone.

gardening

Lisa also mentions other favourites including Project BudBurst and BudBurst Buddies (for younger students) in which junior scientists observe and record changes in plants throughout the changing seasons. While these are US based projects, the websites are rich with suggestions for adaptation in other places.

Finding out about, appreciating and caring for everything, plant, animal or mineral, large or small, near or far is a major part of the real purpose of education. I think involvement in programs such as those described in Lisa’s article will do much to maintain a learner’s curiosity and sense of wonder. What an amazing use of the Internet. I was definitely born too soon.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

45 thoughts on “Be a scientist in real life!

  1. Pingback: #Sugar and Snails BirthdayBlog Tour – The legacy of a Catholic childhood | Norah Colvin

  2. Michelle R. Eastman

    Seeing these types of wonders through a child’s eyes makes it even more delightful! I can’t go back in time, but seeing my son experience nature and its splendors is pretty incredible. We recently spent the day at the Omaha Zoo. After seven hours, we had still not seen everything. I wish it was closer to our home as they have some fantastic “behind the scenes” experiences for kids to “become zookeepers” and other amazing opportunities for kids to take on the role of scientist. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Michelle. I enjoyed hearing about your day out at the Omaha Zoo. It sounds amazing. I wonder if they have any Australian animals there. Those additional experiences offered by many zoos, and museums certainly enrich the lives of many children. Although the zoo is too far away for your son to participate on a regular basis, he will still learn lots of your visits. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Pingback: Learning environment | Norah Colvin

  4. Sherri

    Children, scientists, hands-on…all this. Some of my happiest memories are of doing ‘science’ experiments with my children, but how wonderful to have had this kind of resource! And this reminds me, I haven’t forgotten about giving you some links to some of my ‘children’ posts. I will do it, I just haven’t had a minute to take the time to trawl through my posts and see which I think you would be most intersted in. But I will, I promise… thanks for your patience Norah!

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    1. Norah Post author

      I should pop over to your Summerhouse and trawl through your posts Sherri. I’m sorry I’ve been tardy of late. I’ll endeavour to catch up. Can’t promise just when, but soon! I appreciate your trawling through mine. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        No pressure dear Norah, I fully understand. Only when you can…we do what we can do. And we both know where we can find one another. Have a lovely Friday… see you soon! 🙂 xx

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          1. Sherri

            Dear Norah, I understand. Sadly, I am having to walk away from blogging for a while as my dear mum suffered a stroke on Sunday. Huge shock to all my family and her friends. I’ll be back when I can…and meanwhile, I wish you the very best with your website and I’ll be back as soon as I can… ❤

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            1. Norah Post author

              Oh, Sherri. I am so sorry to hear that sad news about your Mum. It must be very distressing for you and the family. I hope it was not too serious and that she makes a quick recovery. You are excused for as long as you need. Don’t give a thought to we bloggers. We’ll be here when you return. Sending love and hugs and hoping that the situation is not as bad as you fear. Remember to look after yourself, as well as your Mum and others.

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  5. Lisa Reiter

    This is both awesome and so obvious you wonder why is doesn’t happen as part of scientific strategy – kids are a great resource and doing something real would be a complete wonder to them. 😀

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      1. Steven

        I also was born too soon, at least in regards to online Citizen Science (which is what I most associate with the term). Generally speaking, it seems to me that your chances of getting the most out of it are governed by a sweet-spot age (not that one should solely perform it for the sake of getting anything out of it). Born too early and you are most likely to be bound by everyday work/life commitments, with minimal hours in the day remaining to pursue such endeavours (unless one is very committed to the cause itself). But for those youth or young teens from about the start of this century, just when the technology was becoming suitable for the medium, what an opportunity they have. All with the chance of being a part of a discovery… and maybe even publically acknowledged as a co-discoverer. I have only taken part in two online Citizen Science projects, and while it was satisfying contributing, it was also very time consuming.

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        1. Norah Post author

          We probably all think we were born too soon in some ways, too late in others. I’m very impressed that you have been involved in two online Citizen Science projects. I’d love to hear more about them if you have the time and inclination to share. I guess part of what one gets out of participating in projects such as these is the excitement and knowledge of participating in something worthwhile, something bigger than the self. Public acknowledgement may be an incentive for some, but not necessarily for all. Did you receive that acknowledgement? You’re right about the sweet spot. There needs to be a real incentive when life’s responsibilities have other ideas about one’s use of time. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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          1. Steven

            Well they were both astronomy-related projects and in both cases I don’t remember lasting all that long – just enough to contribute (probably a month or two). They were both Zooniverse projects with the first one being “Comet Hunters”, where one simply had to identify comets or asteroids by flicking between two (grainy) black and white images, just like they had to do with photographic plates/film. The second one was “Ice Hunters”, very similar project but with the aim of identifying potential targets for the New Horizons spacecraft after its encounter with Pluto. As for acknowledgement, from memory there may have been a few “thank you for your support” emails (probably an initial one and a few follow-up ones), but I believe that is all (and I likely didn’t make any first discoveries to warrant more than that – you have to be very lucky). One doesn’t necessarily do it for the acknowledgement, one does it to contribute… and to be in with a chance of being the discoverer.

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            1. Norah Post author

              Thanks for sharing your involvement in those projects, Steven. Is astronomy a particular area of interest, or was it coincidental? You think you didn’t make any great discoveries. Do you know if the projects did? I admire your contribution … and yes to be a discover … how exciting that would be!

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              1. Steven

                Yes it is, but not something I can realistically do any more. City lights are too bright. Were I not strung to a family and its demands, I might have moved to a remote location in the countryside and spent too much money on imaging equipment instead. I would like to have done deep sky astrophotography and have an idea on a project that I would do that might be unique, but I’m keeping that to myself for now (even though I doubt it will ever happen). While it is possible to do this type of work remotely over the Internet these days using voluntary telescope time, it wouldn’t be practical for my idea.

                Both citizen projects likely make/made discoveries in so far as new objects are identified, but you won’t read about them in the headlines.

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                1. Norah Post author

                  Parallel lives. That’s what we need to be able to do all the things we’d like to rather than having to choose. That’s exciting having a project in mind, and I respect your need to keep it to yourself for now. One day, when it comes to fruition, I may get to hear about it!

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  6. Gulara

    It’s great to be scientist in real life. We haven’t had any complex ‘projects’ yet, but even watching bees in the garden or engaging with plants helps him to understand the world and to make me more present when we are out and about. Yesterday we had a visit to the botanical gardens to plant some seeds for mothers’ day. it was such good fun! Thank you Norah, very inspiring post.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh yes, watching bees in the garden or exploring the plants is a great place to start in understanding the world and one’s connection to it. What a lovely Mother’s Day activity. I wonder were the seeds perennials or annuals. Will you be able to visit the plants in years to come? I’m pleased your enjoyed the post. Thank you for your lovely comment.

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      1. Gulara

        Thank you, Norah. The seeds were sunflowers, cucumbers and watercress 🙂 We’ve got the pots with us, so we’ll see them growing. The event was organised by his nursery (it’s a university nursery and botanical gardens). 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          What a wonderful activity. I misunderstood. I thought you had planted the seeds at the garden to grow there, not bring home! I hope they grow well! Enjoy!

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  7. Annecdotist

    Great idea, Norah. I’m laughing however as it’s provoked a memory of my university mathematics course where we were asked to toss a coin 100 times to learn about odds and probability. Kids could do that easy peasy.

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  8. thecontentedcrafter

    Hands on experience at the appropriate level for the age is absolutely the best way to go. If all schools did this I would withdraw my inclination to abolish schools 🙂 Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if we had experienced these things when we were young!

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