About the YCCS Project

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 in YCCS. 
  • Explore Case 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 doing.

Why youth?

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!

Visit the Community and Citizen Science page to leave a message for the team, and sign up for our occasional newsletter.

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