Community-based science

“Why do we have to learn this?” I’m sure we’ve all heard this in our classes, and most students aren’t satisfied by answers such as You might need this information later in life or It’s an important part of science or It will be on the test (and rightfully so). Some students see the connections between the real world and what happens in class, but most will need some guidance to make these connections. By engaging in authentic activities, students have a chance to apply what they are learning to new situations, they can experience what scientists actually do, and many of their experiences could evolve into lifelong interests or career choices.

As an advocate for citizen science projects, I’m excited about NSTA’s partnership with SciStarters—you may have seen the promotion on the Science Scope site. SciStarters is a searchable collection of community-based and citizen-science projects–regional, national, and international. There are projects appropriate for all grade levels and on a variety of topics.

This issue features descriptions of several classroom-tested projects:

  • I spend a lot of time on the Delaware coast, and I often find bits of sea glass on the beach. These bits of glass from bottles get polished by the waves, although with the prevalence of plastic bottles, we’re finding less glass on the beach. So I was intrigued by Citizen Science: International Pellet Watch, a project based in Japan in which students collected resin pellets that wash ashore and send them to a lab for analysis as an indication of the presence of “persistent organic pollutants.” [SciLinks: Ocean Currents] This project exemplifies the type of collaborations described in Speaking of Science and the value of inviting speakers from the community to work with your students. This article has suggestions for working with community members, including brainstorming questions with students ahead of time, working with your administrators, and connecting the visit with the curriculum. The author also suggests taping the presentations to use with other classes. I’d add a suggestion about Skyping with these folks to take advantage of expertise beyond the community or to coordinate your schedules.

“Community-Based Science” was also the theme of the March 2010 issue of Science Scope. Find more ideas here.

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2 Comments

  1. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Another SciStarter project that sounds like something people of most ages could participate in is The Baby Laughter Project, with a goal of helping researchers understand what makes babies laugh.
    http://scistarter.com/project/685-The%20Baby%20Laughter%20project

  2. Darlene
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much! All of us at SciStarter are thrilled that the site is a useful resource for you and your students. Thanks again for sharing this!

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