Citizen Science 2019: Citizen Science: Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities for Students

The second day opened with an introduction to Kenan Fellows which is a programme to link teachers and provide STEM experience, and therefore they integrate citizen science in schools. Following this, Rachael Polmanteer, who is marine biologist turned 8th-grade science teacher, gave a keynote. Rachael is from Bath, New York (state) and she grows up near nature, with walks to the woods, and lake etc. She was always interested in science – her parents took her to science museums and supporting her interest – driving through zoos, visiting natural history museums, watching whales and were very supportive. In high school, she had to decide between earth science and biology – and Mr Ryan, her earth science teacher who was making it exciting – she hated rocks originally, but her teacher made it alive for the students. He invested in his students so they get a very high mark – 94% as a class average. He made a huge difference and helped each student. When she finished schools, she went to study biology, and got a job in Hawaii working with endengered birds, and continued to share information on Facebook to Mr Ryan, and the linkage was “hey, Mr Ryan, you wouldn’t believe what I’m doing now” and made the connection. So – who is YOUR Mr Ryan?

Teachers matter – they change your path, where you’re going. Education was aligned with what she was doing – in the zoo, and in Hawaii, she created a community outreach day which is a single day for the local community to learn about the endangered birds. She moved back to New York state because of wanting to be close to her family and created a not-for-profit – In 2015 she thought about becoming a science teacher – she knew the science, but the teaching was scary. Your first-day teaching: the life of kids dependent on me and you don’t want to mess up with it. She also wanted to do real science with the students. She was told to apply for the Kenan Fellowship. She was interviewed at the point that she had 8 months of experience and got the fellowship in 2016. She was paired with Dr Schuttler and embarrassed Rachael and was sitting at the museum, setting a curriculum so the students can do citizen science.


With the students, she set a camera trap and share the data and that led to 140 students that engaged in the eMammal programme. One of the students, Troy, was not interested but once a best friend was doing it, she wanted to do it too – and she joined science in high school and in college as a result of her involvement in eMammal. She then found herself presenting in the CSA conference in 2017, but the conference changed her – she developed appropriate ways to teach students and use iNaturalist to ensure that data is good quality. Have done bioblitz with 14 years old that got very committed to nature. Another example is an opportunity for students to participate in digs, and as students analysed shark teeth, they discover new information and the students continued to talk about their discovery for a week. With 36 kids to analysing information, there is plenty of work that can be done. With eMammal programme, she extended the effort or a bioblitz to the whole state with over 2000 students carrying out data collection on the same day. This year, created pollinator boxes in school.

In terms of outcomes – there is a clear growth in the success of students as a result of participating in citizen science and being successful in their exams. Now she went for 90% of classes as citizen science: it changes the student thinking, it changes their engagement.


Reyna Martinez, a student of Rachael, talked about her love of science, and interested in the fact that we don’t know about the ocean, and is interested in learning about nature and science. Making a difference and making the world a better place is something that excites her about science.

Yechielle Sabally, another student, talked about the growth of a bean in a bag, but in school also learn about water sampling, bacteria behind the ear, and learn about real science and helping scientists in their work.

Kaden Braye talked about the experience of doing citizen science – doing good in the world, and helping scientists in their work.

Favourite projects include Rob Dunn sourdough project, and eMammal because it allows students to see animals from all over the world.

The combination of citizen science project into the curriculum is done by sharing information between teachers and building the teaching around the project. She has the experience of how to link projects to the curriculum.

The next stage is to move from contributory projects to projects that are designed by the students and creating your own questions is a challenge, but once students learned how to do science, they can do it.



Launching a citizen science course – week 1

Today, I gave the opening lectures of the new UCL course ‘Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing‘. In a way, it was more work than I originally thought, but I also thought that I’m underestimating the effort – so it’s not completely unexpected.

Although I am responsible for the first installation of Moodle, the virtual learning environment, at UCL in 2003, I have not used it in the context of an online course for remote learners. I have experienced the development of the Esri Survey123 module with Patrick Rickles and the excellent team at Esri that done most the work. It’s actually quite a challenge. Luckily, the e-learning support team of UCL was happy to guide us and set us on an appropriate path of developing the material for the course.

Having the course materialising is also closing a part of the original ExCiteS proposal that was left open. Here what the proposal for Challenging Engineering said: “In the fourth year, the research group will begin to consolidate the technology (with the first PhD students completing their studies) and will develop a further focused research proposal utilising the lessons from Adventure 2… In this year, a module on Citizen Science will be offered for MSc and PhD students at UCL.”. The project officially started in September 2011, so the fourth year was 2016 – so launching it in early 2018, within the 2017/2018 academic year should be considered to be on time in academic proposal terms!

Compared to things that I’ve done in the past, I have to note that the evolution of what is considered as boring technology – e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint (MSPP) – is instrumental to the ability to put this course together. Below you’ll see the opening segment. In actual terms, the extra effort to turn it into online teaching material was not huge – record voice over in MSPP, save as a video, upload to YouTube, link to Moodle (or here). I do hope that we’re getting it right with the course, but I’ll see as we develop it.

The rest of the lecture is available on UCLeXtend.