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Citizen Scientists: Explore Our World

June 8, 2011

Are you looking for ways to develop or nurture a child’s passion for science and the natural world?  Need activities for the kids to do this summer?  Consider “citizen science” projects!

Citizen science asks countless individuals to contribute their observations of a particular thing — birds, frogs, flowers and, as you’ll see, much more — to a central database, which trained scientists analyze. It infinitely extends the observational powers of trained scientists, allowing them to ask — and answer — questions about long-term and widespread changes in the environment that otherwise would be impossible to contemplate.

For individuals, it’s a chance to connect with the outside world in a real, meaningful — and often fun — way.

Dan Shapley

So where can you find citizen science projects that might appeal to your child?

  • Good Housekeeping lists over 25 projects, from counting roadkill (remember, kids eat up the “gross” factor) to mushrooms to bees, butterflies and birds or even weather and earthquakes.
  • has a project finder, where you can search by topic, or look specifically for projects for kids or students or ones that involve building something.
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology lets you browse lists of projects by category, such as air quality, invasive species, climate change, astronomy, birds, invertebrates,  etc.
What’s amazing about these projects is that they really help advance scientific knowledge:
“A recent master’s thesis by the [Glacier National] Park’s citizen science coordinator found no statistical difference between data gathered by citizen scientists and by trained biologists.”
Hungry Horse
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