As part of an integrated science and literacy unit, 3rd grade
students participate in the Lost Ladybug
Project (LLP), a citizen science project documenting the
distribution of ladybug species across North
America. Students work in their classroom,
school garden, and science lab to (1) collect and identify the
ladybug species on their school campus in Northern California
and, (2) modify their school garden to attract more ladybugs.
Students collect and photograph ladybugs and submit the photos to
LLP, which are used to map and study shifts in ladybug
populations. In addition, students read and write about
garden and farm ecosystems,and participate in garden management
decisions related to ladybugs and pest management. Students
present their work to the community at a school-wide end of year
Species or system studied: Ladybugs.
Students document the presence of ladybug species in their school
garden once a week.
Research site: School garden.
Students collect ladybugs in the garden as well as around the
school campus. Students visit the garden once a week with their
Participants: Elementary school students.
Twenty 3rd grade students in a two-way bilingual Spanish-English
immersion MAGNET school participate with their teacher, the
garden teacher, and the elementary science specialist.
Students collect and submit data once a week and also engage in
related reading and writing during daily literacy
Duration: 8 weeks.
The unit takes place over the course of eight weeks during the
spring, when all stages of the ladybug life cycle are observable.
2016 was the first year that the teacher and school participated
in the LLP.
Institution: Classroom – Elementary School.
Activities take place during the regular school day. The team of
teachers incorporate LLP data collection into the integrated
science and language arts unit and facilitate all learning
activities. In 2016, the UC Davis research team and school
administration provided teacher professional development and
support for the project.
In addition to uploading photographs to the LLP website, students
read expository text to understand ladybugs’ role in garden and
farm ecosystems and each student writes a three paragraph essay
about ladybugs they found. They develop posters and presentations
to share their work at the end-of-year MAGNET showcase, attended
by teachers, school and district administrators, parents, master
gardeners and other community members. Students advise the
garden teacher with recommendations about how to attract and
sustain ladybug populations for integrated pest management and
helped with plan implementation. Students write written
reflections on their scientific work and themselves as
Additional unit resources – see bottom of page for photo
Key Practices In Action:
Through in-depth case studies of diverse YCCS projects, we have
documented youth-centered key
practices that are effective in promoting learning
and environmental science agency. Click the headers below to
learn more about what those key practices look like in this
Sharing Findings with Outside Audiences
Students shared their work with the broader community during the
school’s annual MAGNET showcase presentations, which teachers,
district administrators, and community stakeholders attended. The
class was divided into six groups of 4-5 students and each group
developed a poster and shared one component of the project. For
example, one group presented the data the class gathered and
submitted to LLP while another group presented the class
recommendations for attracting more ladybugs to the garden.
Students shared in a poster presentation format and visitors
circulated fluidly to each group over the course of one
Preparing and giving the showcase presentation was particularly
important for students who enjoy science but are reluctant to
assert themselves or less confident in their abilities. For
example, Julia was able to position herself as an expert to both
her peers and community members, although she was generally quiet
during group discussions and two boys in the group did most of
the talking. As the students prepared their presentations, the
teacher played a key role by suggesting that Julia use the iPad
during the presentation. This enabled Julia to take the lead
during the showcase, showing visitors how the group collected and
submitted their LLP photographs.
Some students had additional opportunities to share their work
during the eight-week unit before the showcase. Two groups
presented their posters to visiting educators from Australia and
three students led members of a parent club to the garden where
they demonstrated how to photograph a ladybug and upload the
picture to LLP. One girl, Kira, felt especially proud of leading
the parent garden tour. She shared that adults typically “don’t
pay attention to students” but when she was in the role of school
garden expert, they not only paid attention to her, but she was
also able to teach adults what she had learned.
Ensuring High Data Quality
While some CCS projects design multiple ways for students to take
ownership of collecting high quality data, LLP scientists review
every photo and identify the ladybug species to ensure their data
quality standards. This seemed to limit types of student
ownership of data quality.
However, we observed more subtle evidence of ownership when
students submitted data to the national contributory CCS
project. First, students were in charge of taking good
photographs. The teacher initially modeled scientific photography
by showing students how to freeze a ladybug for 5 minutes so it
wouldn’t move, take the photo on a piece of white paper, and
ensure the ladybug was large and in focus. Students discussed
whether or not the quality of the photograph was good, mentioning
characteristics like whether or not the ladybug was in focus.
They occasionally asked the teacher to refreeze the ladybugs when
they were moving or retook photographs. In this way, students
took responsibility for submitting data to scientists that they
thought were high quality.
In addition, students determined which ladybugs they should
photograph and submit to LLP. The educator taught students how to
make a scientific sketch, rich with detailed observations and
labels. This helped students make close observations and learn to
accurately identify different ladybug species, including the most
common ladybug in their garden, the convergent ladybug
(Hippodamia convergens). As LLP is interested in species
distribution rather than abundance, students discussed whether or
not they should upload multiple photographs of the same species.
After the first two days of data collection, students decided to
only upload photographs of new species they observed.
Interacting with Complex Social Ecological Systems
Students learned about the ecological relationships in the garden
as well as human management of the garden for food production
through their integrated experiences in the garden and classroom.
As they collected LLP data in the garden, students observed how
the large aphid population was damaging their crops and how
ladybugs acted as a natural predator. Students also read articles
about ladybug life histories and attracting ladybugs to the
garden during their language arts lessons. The teacher then asked
students to generate multiple solutions for how to control the
aphid population in the garden. Students shared their ideas,
engaged in respectful argumentation, and decided as a group on a
management strategy that involved cutting down annual food crops
infested with aphids and planting perennial native plants to
provide year round ladybug habitat.
The garden teacher helped students carry out part of their plan,
cutting down annuals and continuing monitoring. Through this
integrated unit, students experienced themselves as actors in a
garden ecosystem and came to understand how humans influence and
are influenced by ecological processes. This understanding
extended for weeks after the unit had ended, as students
continued bringing ladybugs they found from home to the garden to
help control the aphid population.
Data: Weekly photographs of ladybugs
Why: Documenting the distribution of ladybugs
across North America helps scientists assess how and why
species composition is changing and the impact it will have on
Audience: Entomologists at Cornell lab of
ornithology. When students upload photographs, entomologists
identify the species and add the photographs to the project
Audience: The general public is able to access
all of the LLP data through the LLP website
Impact: Students documented 5 species of
ladybugs which were added to the broader LLP database.
Posters: Posters that were used at MAGNET
showcase and open house to communicate the work students had done
to their local community
Why: Because the school is a MAGNET school,
they have an annual showcase to share with the broader
community what is happening at the school. The citizen
science work was central to the ladybug unit and 3 of the 6
groups shared about what they had done with citizen science.
Audience: Teachers, district administrators,
parents, community stakeholders, other MAGNET schools
Impact: Though many community members were
already knowledgeable about agriculture and ecology, the
showcase introduce information about ladybugs and integrated
pest management to many community members.
Outcomes & Evaluations
The teacher and school had four main outcomes for the students in
language arts, science, and citizenship. First, students used
their science work as material for writing an. Student
essays were scored by two teachers using a rubric and students
were expected to demonstrate a writing level of three out of
four. These essays were used immediately to assess students
writing level and the school-wide writing goals. The school also
saved them as part of student writing portfolios for future
teachers’ use and the school’s annual MAGNET program evaluation.
Second, students were expected to communicate through oral
presentation, which was informally assessed during showcase
Third, the teacher assessed student engagement in the scientific
practice of argument through evidence, a practice emphasized in
the Next Generation Science Standards. This was assessed
informally through the students use of evidence from their
observations and reading.
Finally, the principal hoped that student participation in
citizen science could address two of the school’s six character
goals: collaboration and citizenship. The teacher assessed
these two goals and they were incorporated into student scores on
their district report card.