Learning with Youth-focused Community & Citizen Science
The rapid advancement of citizen science has created
opportunities for teachers and informal science educators to
involve youth in the production of authentic science. What does
this mean for science learning? This project has been exploring
these questions, and bridging research and practice for
Youth-focused Community and Citizen Science.
Delve into Key
Practices for deepening learning through participation
Studies to see those key practices in action in
many different settings.
Learn more about what it means to foster Environmental
Science Agency, and strengthen the connection between doing
science, and making change in the world.
Learn more below about our approach, partnerships, and
efforts to strengthen Community and Citizen
Science across UC Davis.
Beginning in 2013, we have been conducting qualitative case
studies with YCCS projects in Northern California, as well as
convening project designers, teachers, scientists and others
involved in YCCS to generate and share knowledge of when and how
YCCS works best.
Youth and Community-Based Citizen Science (YCCS) involves young
people directly in the scientific production of knowledge.
Through participation in YCCS, young people
contribute to professional research, influence management and
policy in their cities and regions, and impact conservation of
places and natural resources in their communities. Educational
settings that engage in YCCS open opportunities for development
of scientific knowledge and practice, as well as the youth
agency—the inclination and capacity to create personally
meaningful change in the world around you. We are working with
educators to understand how YCCS impacts science learning,
stewardship, and civic engagement.
Who We Are
This project is led by Dr. Heidi Ballard, Associate Professor in
the School of Education at UC Davis, and the Center for Community and Citizen Science. Dr. Ballard
studies environmental and informal science education,
particularly what and how people learn through public
participation in scientific research (PPSR). Her research team
includes a post doctoral researcher and several graduate students
from the School of Education and Community Development Graduate
Group. Our team members include Déana Scipio, Amanda Lindell, Jen
Metes, Emily Harris, Ryan Meyer, Colin Dixon, Sinead Brien, and
Erin Bird. Learn about the team here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are community science and citizen science?
Through community science and citizen science (CCS), individuals
and communities engage in the scientific discovery and knowledge
building process. Informal experts, curious minds, and
individuals wanting to play a role in science and/or community
engagement can all participate. Participants in community science
or citizen science may be of all ages; however, the YCCS Project
specifically focuses on youth participation in these projects.
Why not just use the term “citizen science”?
There are many different names and histories of people taking up
scientific tools to learn and act in their community – PPSR,
Community Science, YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research),
Citizen Monitoring, Bucket Brigade, and on. We include Citizen
Science (CS) in what we do, but want to emphasize this range of
goals, tools, values, and participants. Furthermore, our group
believes in the democratizing power of YCCS and have heard from
many who believe “citizen science” doesn’t describe what they’re
Young people are eager to help solve important problems, yet
cannot fully participate in certain democratic processes such as
voting. Through experiences in YCCS, youth can learn and
contribute in sophisticated scientific practices and projects. We
look at how youth practice science, share their voice, form
meaningful roles and identities through different stages and
forms of YCCS.
Youth (Y) are the center of this project and, like YPAR
practitioners, we believe youth have the power to ask and answer
sophisticated questions and make authentic impact in their
neighborhoods, cities and world. Community ( C ) is also
important to how we approach this work as it are not scientists
alone who ask research questions or gather scientific data.
Regardless who is seeking information to solve a problem, youth
can contribute important knowledge.
What do you hope to learn?
Our research uses case study methods to explore in-school and
community-based youth-focused projects that address air and water
quality, climate change, biodiversity and other issues facing
communities and ecosystems.
The overarching research questions of this project are:
What are the impacts of participation in YCCS for youth in
relation to science learning and identity, environmental
stewardship, and civic engagement?
What program structures and activities facilitate this
learning (in both formal and informal educational settings)?
What is the impact of this work?
We aim to bridge research and practice through investigating
questions that will bring greater understanding to this emerging
field, as well as be useful to educators currently working to
build and implement success programs. Bringing insights from
in-depth case studies across a
range of YCCS projects, our objectives are to:
Better understand how CCS can foster science learning,
environmental stewardship, and civic engagement among children
and youth; and
Provide educators and CCS practitioners with a rationale and
set of strategies and practices to expand and deepen youth
participation in high quality CCS programs.
We seek underlying principles that CCS programs can use to foster
learning outcomes and work to identify opportunities for and
barriers to meaningful experiences for youth in CCS programs.
Who is on the team?
We are an interdisciplinary team of UC Davis researchers and
graduate students working with a diverse range of partner
organizations. Learn more about our team and partners here.
How can I learn more or participate?
Check out our YCCS project case
studies to see how scientists and educators have implemented
effective YCCS projects. Then learn about the key practices we highlight as critical
to science learning and the development of Environmental Science
Agency. While we are no longer seeking new formal case studies,
if you are involved in a youth-focused CCS or PPSR project, we
would be happy to feature a blog post about your experiences and
ideas. Feel free to reach out to us! We will continue to inform
and update researchers and practitioners in the field, so please
check back, stay in touch, and consider this website a resource
for your work!