The Center collaborated with the California Naturalist Program,
educators in the Woodland Joint Unified School District, and a
variety of local nature centers and reserves to encourage
participation in the Sacramento City Nature Challenge.
Despite being its first year participating in this global
competition (as one of more than 160 cities worldwide), over 500
people in the Sacramento region logged 9,798 observations of over
1,200 unique species using iNaturalist.
Interested in how CNC and iNaturalist more broadly can be a tool
for education through citizen science, Peggy Harte and Juliana
Yee together developed a 3-day biodiversity lesson plan using
bioblitzes, events for participants to observe and record all of
the species in a given area during a short time period. The goal
of the 3-day lesson plan and participation in bioblitzes was to
share with students and teachers why biodiversity is important,
and to teach them how to use iNaturalist as a tool to document
biodiversity in their environments.
On the first day of the program, students did a mini bioblitz,
explored iNaturalist, and looked at a map of iNat observations.
On the second day, the students did a “drawing bioblitz,” where
they learned how to quick sketch nature and details helpful for
identification. Since kids can’t make iNaturalist accounts, this
was an important way for them to keep track of their
observations. Additionally, students used cameras to take photos
of the species they observed during a bioblitz, then uploaded
them using their instructors’ accounts later. On day 3, the group
performed a larger bioblitz and graphed their observations to see
the distribution of species in the area.
The program sought to encourage students to observe the natural
world around them. By working with research questions and using
iNaturalist to make their observations, students were able to
connect with the science around them and the science that “real
world” researchers are working on.
Science educator and CCS Innovator Fellow Peggy Harte thinks one
of the strengths of iNaturalist is how quickly students get
feedback on their observations. “They see that disagreement
happens within the scientific community, and allows real-world
engagement with the scientific practices (seen in real time),”
Harte said. “This connection to real world researchers and the
scientific community at large shows them not only how data can be
collected and evaluated, but also why researchers may need their
help to answer project questions.”
“The only weakness I see is a possible educator pitfall of
stopping at the data collection level and not diving deeper into
facilitating students’ development of their own research
questions or analyzing data from their region or on a particular
topic,” she said.
Lesson plans, like the one Harte and Yee developed, can be tools
to make sure citizen science efforts like these go beyond data
collection and ensure that science learning is happening for
students, too. Moving forward, the Center hopes to share these
resources more broadly with City Nature Challenge collaborators,
and get more educators
in the Sacramento region involved in next year’s CNC.