Beginning a citizen science project allows students to engage in
the “doing” of science, not just the “learning” of science.
Adults who guide this process must attend to and be prepared for
the unexpected. By nature, students’ findings will be unknown.
There may be left turns along the way as unexpected discoveries
are made, but what at first looks like a misstep may then lead to
amazing discoveries. These resources will help you find the right
citizen science project to meet your needs by guiding you through
identifying wanted outcomes as well as constraints.
When selecting a citizen science project to be taught on a school
campus, it can be helpful to select a phenomenon that is puzzling
enough to pique students’ curiosity, but still allows for
collection and production of meaningful data. Student
questions will drive the research, but also allow for sense
making and productive inquiry connected to state standards.
When thinking about jump starting a project, the initial
phenomenon students observe can be a photo, video or a class
experience. For campus based projects, students can begin
by asking what biodiversity is found at school, what is the
weather/climate like in their area, etc.
Through community and citizen science, teachers can engage
students in authentic research experiences, which can deepen
their understanding of the environment, and their connection to
it. These experiences can also provide a framework to ask and
investigate questions within students’ communities.
How to find a community and citizen science project that meets
Educators seeking to use citizen science or community science in
their work can draw from a great variety of existing projects.
Whether designing your own citizen science project or
participating in an existing program, there are many
considerations and choices in how to involve youth in the project
work to support the science and environmental learning and civic
In our research we have identified important design and
implementation features of projects that should be considered
when pursuing community and citizen science experiences for
youth. We developed this tool as a way for you to explore those
features, understand their implications for creating learning
opportunities, and see examples of projects that include them in