Community Science

STEM Tuesday –Community Science – Writing Tips & Resources

The community bit to science is often the ignored, undervalued piece of the scientific process. Collective knowledge needs to be collected and then dispersed among the collective.

Totally confusing, right? 

Well, it is if you think about science as we’ve been generally taught…as a static thing. We’ve been ingrained to think of science as only a rather dull series of steps. How many times have you had to list the steps of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD on a test? I wish I had a dollar for every time I did!

  • Observation
  • Discovery
  • Hypothesis
  • Test
  • Conclude
  • Communicate

Sarah Greenwood, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

But science is so much more than just a few memorized steps in a process. What has often been overshadowed in science is the “aliveness” of science. We too often think about science as an individual or small group activity of people isolated in a laboratory, office, or at a site going about their business. We think of science as static. The same misconception holds true for technology, engineering, and mathematics. Lifeless and mundane egghead stuff.

But STEM is so much more. It’s vibrant and alive! It’s all around us. It affects all of us. Science is a tool we use to explain the world around us. Technology, engineering, and mathematics are the tools we use to help science define our world and then manipulate it. And STEM needs you

As much as science affects the community, community affects science. Whether it’s an individual or group participating in a scientific study to collect data points for a research group or science information being presented to a population, the community plays a vital role.

It’s TEAMWORK!

What better way to learn and appreciate science than by participating in science? Shared experience. Now, that’s the value of community science. With many eyes, bodies, and brains at work, the more alive the science is. Community science spreads the load in both directions. It helps cover the necessary ground to turn an unknown into a known by gathering and then distributing the information.

Within the realm of community science, there is a multitude of opportunities covering just about any interest. From open code sourcing software to bird counts, to data analysis, to at-home CRISPR gene-editing, there’s something for everyone. Find your particular jam and give it a shot.

Community Science for the win!

  • Teamwork
  • Spread the load
  • Cover the ground
  • Gather the information

Teamwork makes the dream work!

 

Mount Rainier NPS, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at  www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and Instagram at @mikehays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files provides resources to get involved in community science projects. 

Looking for a community science project? Check out these resources!

The one and only Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count!

CRISPR at Home – Gene editing for anyone!

The Cornell Ornithology Lab

 


STEM Tuesday –Community Science – In the Classroom

This month’s theme is something that is near and dear to my heart – Community Science (also known as Citizen Science). I’ve participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (among others) for years. The books I read that inspired this month’s activity suggestions are:

Book Cover for Bat Citizens, showing a bat flying toward the reader.Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night
by Rob Laidlaw

This book is devoted just one type of animal – bats. It highlights many different young scientists and what they are doing to help these amazing creatures.

 

Book cover for Citizen Scientists. Shows a ladybug on a leaf, a red-bellied woodpecker, a hand holding a frog, and a monarch butterfly.Citizen Scientists: Be A Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard
by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

This book covers a citizen/community science project for each season – Fall butterflying, Winter birding, Spring frogging, and Summer ladybugging.

 

Turquoise book cover reading "The Outdoor Scientist"The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World
by Temple Grandin

The Outdoor Scientist is part memoir, part field guide, and contains lots of different activities and mini-bios of inspiring scientists. Opportunities to take part in citizen science projects are sprinkled throughout. They include several projects I hadn’t heard of before.

 

Book cover for 12 Epic Animal Adventures shows monkeys bathing in a hot spring.12 Epic Animal Adventures
by Janet Slingerland

I wrote this book, which means I read it MANY times. Each chapter highlights a different location around the world where people can have an interesting animal experience. The 5th chapter shows visitors participating in a leatherback sea turtle nest count.

 

Find a Project and Join In!

Of course, the first thing I’m inspired to do after reading these books is to participate in a community science project. There are a multitude to choose from.

Most of the better-known community science projects are related to the natural world. But there are lots of other projects out there. Here are a few web sites where you can see or search for a variety of efforts you can participate in.

SciStarter (https://scistarter.org) lets you search for projects that are online or in person near you. You can also search by topic, age range, or goal. This site most likely has links to all the projects listed in the books.

NASA has a page dedicated to citizen science projects. Some of these are literally out of this world (sorry, couldn’t resist). Here’s the link: https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience

National Geographic has a page where you can look through a list of projects geared for grades 3-12+. The web site is: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/citizen-science-projects.

Keep an eye open for new opportunities. I recently saw a notice put out by NJ Fish & Wildlife about a turkey brood survey. Each year, they ask for help estimating the number of turkey families throughout NJ. (The link to the survey is on the NJ Fish & Wildlife home page: https://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw – look for the orange “Wild Turkey Alert”.)

I also saw a notice about a firefly survey. We see fireflies in our backyard, so I was really interested to see what that was all about. It’s run by Mass Audubon, but anyone in North America can participate. https://www.massaudubon.org/get-involved/community-science/firefly-watch

Report on a Project

Each of the books presents community science projects in different ways. After participating in a project, report on it.

You could choose to imitate one of these methods or explore different ways of communicating what you did and what you learned. You could practice interview and journalism techniques by reporting on a community scientist’s experiences. You could present your project participating as a photo-essay. You could put together a podcast episode or video segment.

The opportunities for this are endless.

Citizen vs. Community

You might notice that some people refer to community-supported science efforts as citizen science while others call it community science. A few organizations have explained why they’re making the switch, like here: https://debspark.audubon.org/news/why-were-changing-citizen-science-community-science and here: https://www.re-sources.org/2020/10/community-science-citizen-science.

This is a great opportunity to talk about citizenship, community, and the power of words. I recently had a very interesting conversation with my son on these topics. What I find especially interesting is that we each have different ideas about what it means to be a citizen.

Some things to ponder:

What do you think of when you hear citizenship? Community? What are your feelings around these words?

Look the words up in the dictionary. Do they mean what you think they mean?

Does citizen science imply something different than community science?

As citizens of Earth, do we (or should we) have some responsibility to engage in community science?


Janet smiling while holding a butterflyJanet Slingerland is the author of over 20 books for young readers, including 12 Epic Animal Adventures. For more activities related to this book, check out this page on Janet’s web site: http://janetsbooks.com/my-books/animals.

STEM Tuesday — Community Science – Book List

More and more individuals today are assisting in the collection of scientific data all over the world. Every person, regardless of age or degree, can make a difference by joining together with other community members or making their own observations. Together our world can be healthier and stronger with community science involvement. Here are our book choices to help you and your students get involved wherever you live! 

The Field Guide to Citizen Science : How You Can Contribute to Scientific Research and Make a Difference by Darlene Cavalier, Caren Cooper,, and Catherine Hoffman

This book from the expert team at SciStarter provides lots of ways for readers to get involved with citizen science projects in their community and discover where their data might lead.

Citizen Scientists: Be A Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

This Scientists in the Field title from the notable team of Burns and Harasimowicz describes ways to get involved in the Audubon Bird Count, FrogWatch USA, and other community science projects in your own backyard or neighborhood park. 

The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World by Temple Grandin

Professor of animal science and inventor, Temple Grandin, introduces readers to many scientific disciplines and how these disciplines can play a role in everyday observations. A perfect read for curios readers. 

Citizen Science Guide for Families: Taking Part in Real Science by Greg Landgraf

Readers will discover what citizen science is and how they can get involved in Landgraf’s book. This is an accessible read for the entire family. 

Get Into Citizen Science (Get-Into-It Guides) by Vic Kovacs

Track butterfly migration or watch the sky for comets. This book gives examples of how readers can use their skills to make an impact as citizen scientists. 

Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw

Here is an example of how citizen scientists can get involved with one specific species – bats. 

12 Epic Animal Adventures by Janet Slingerland

These animal adventures will connect with curious readers who want to get involved in community science, especially the chapter on sea turtle nest counts.

Be The Change: Rob Greenfield’s Call to Kids – Making A Difference in a Messed-Up World by Rob Greenfield and Antonia Banyard

There are so many ways to make a difference in our world. This book provides young readers with many simple ways to get started. 

Chasing Bats and Tracking Rats: Urban Ecology, Community Science, and How We Share Our Cities by Cylita Guy PhD, Cornelia Li

Community science initiatives happen everywhere, including urban environments. This book delves into the ways city residents can make a difference by observing urban wildlife. 


Photo of DESERTS author Nancy Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo , a founding STEM Tuesday team member, has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also served as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2022 titles are When the World Runs Dry (Jr Library Guild Selection), The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale (Scientists in the Field) and Buildings That Breathe. Visit her at www.nancycastaldo.com. 

Patricia Newman , a founding STEM Tuesday team member, writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. Academy Award winner and environmentalist Jeff Bridges calls Planet Ocean a “must read.” Newman, a Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, and a Eureka! Gold Medal from the California Reading Association for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.