Why citizen science?
“Scientists can’t be everywhere, so kids from all over can record data and send it in.” Heidi, grade 7
Citizen science is important! It’s a partnership between the public and professional scientists that can help answer questions scientists couldn’t answer on their own. Citizen science encompasses a broad range of topics, geographic settings, and strategies. Some projects are confined to a single town or watershed while others are global in scope. Others focus on individual species while others investigate broader taxonomic groups (for example, birds, butterflies, worms, turtles) or even entire ecosystems (for example, by monitoring environmental conditions such as water quality). At any scale, citizen science creates opportunities for young people to connect with the natural world, gain scientific skills, and learn key science concepts related to topics such as life cycles, habitats, adaptations, and interrelationships.
Through the Lab of Ornithology’s Citizen Science Program, people across the continent help scientists by collecting data about their local birds and sending the information to scientists who study bird populations and conservation. We welcome your students to get involved and gather data about the kinds, numbers, and behaviors of birds that they see. Not only is this an excellent way to expose your students to what real scientific research is like, but it is also a way for them to be a part of a truly great cause. Your data contributions will help us to better understand and conserve birds.
We’ve found that children are really motivated by helping scientists in this way. Their data has real meaning, and they like the fact that their data helps birds. It’s easy to get started, especially with the support of educator resources from BirdSleuth!
We’ve found these particular Cornell Lab projects to be especially useful to educators:
- eBird is an easy-to-use citizen science project that collects data from people throughout the world: any bird, any where, any time. Kids can not only easily enter data, but can also answer questions about bird distribution and abundance by downloading graphs, charts, and maps. We’ve made it easy for teachers to use eBird and explore eBird data: our Most Wanted Birds kit will give you all the guidance you need!
- Celebrate Urban Birds! is an easy-to-use project encourages people to learn about city birds, and watch them for science, get involved in projects to “green up” communities, and increase conservation awareness. This free project is great for introducing anyone to the world of birds.
- Project FeederWatch participants count the kinds and numbers of birds that visit their feeders in the winter. Our Investigator’s Kit for Homeschoolers will show you how to get young children involved in real science by doing this exciting project.
- NestWatch offers a way to track nesting birds. Whether you find a robin’s nest or have a whole birding trail, you can contribute to the world’s understanding of nesting birds!
- YardMap is a great way to teach about habitat. You can map your schoolyard, backyard, or any other area and learn ways to improve the area for birds and other wildlife. The project also offers information that might be useful for teachers with school gardens.
Citizen science has benefits for young people that extend beyond it’s utility as a learning tool. We strongly believe that spending time in and connecting to nature is an essential part of life, especially for children, which is why getting kids outside through activities such as citizen science programs is emphasized in BirdSleuth curricula.
We invite you to dig in and become part of this inspiring and rapidly growing movement. Your students will not only learn about science…they will be scientists!