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.
“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.
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 for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.