Updated: May 17, 2021
Larissa Braz Sousa
Citizen science is a tool that allows science to be accessible and where citizens can share their contributions. It facilitates public participation in scientific research, generating data that is used in a variety of studies, such as conservation, pollution measurement, astronomy, chemistry, public health, among others. There are a number of ways to involve children in citizen science initiatives. Here are some practical ways that allow them to be authentically involved in science and learning. 1. Encourage curiosity Curiosity is something that moves us all, always in search of new conquests and discoveries. It happens anywhere and anytime, and it leads us to wonder how things work, how animals behave in nature, how plants grow, or how the rainbow appears in the sky. Curiosity is not limited to school content. That is why the more we encourage this among children, the more confident they will be to question themselves and seek new knowledge.
One way to encourage children's curiosity is by sharing interesting topics about nature and asking them to share what they are learning. Photo: Bed bugs and snake lice seen in a backyard in Brazil.
2. Visit parks and enjoy nature with them. Let them explore. It is important to allow children to interact with nature. Therefore, encourage yourself to visit an urban or national park and allow them to explore the environment, what they perceive sounds, distinguish both animals and plants that are in the surroundings, even perceive smells. Let them walk barefoot, so that they feel the texture of the grass and the direct contact of their feet with the ground. Let them look at the tiny creatures they can find under rocks or in grass. Promote some interactive games, such as picking up dry leaves or stones on the ground and having them compare them.
Or maybe some games about how many birds or frogs they can spot during a walk. They can share this information with some citizen science programs, like Christmas Bird Census for example, where children share photos, sounds and the location of the place they explored.
Photo: Woodpecker sighted in the garden of Rio Claro, SP, Brazil.
3. Explore the backyard
Countless creatures visit our gardens and backyards every day. Encourage children to observe and record those animals, mushrooms, and / or plants they can find in their backyards. It is an excellent opportunity to take a closer look at what is happening in these places, particularly during the different seasons. They sure can learn together. There are also many citizen science programs that invite you to explore and record everything you find.
Photo: A hummingbird observed in a backyard in Bauru, SP, Brazil.
Explore the playground with the children so they can learn together. 4. Share stories of other children who accomplished great things. Did you know that hundreds of children mark and measure monarch butterflies each year in schools in Canada, the United States, and Mexico? Children have been actively participating in various conservation and migration studies of this species, and are aware of the importance of protection, that is why they are part of citizen science projects, with this practical approach.
Sharing stories of other children who accomplished great things can influence others, encouraging them to pursue their passion for the natural world and feel confident that they have an authentic impact as citizen scientists.
Photo: Book The Bug Girl.
5. Grow a garden at home Share experiences with the children such as seeing a plant grow, this allows them to recognize the different stages of development, as well as the relationships of these with other organisms such as insects that can help with pollination or perhaps it is species that spoil the development of the plant. and that they are not always beneficial
Talk about the different stages of plants, such as flowering in spring and leaf loss in fall. There are major citizen science projects examining crops, inputs, and harvest, taking place in the United States, and could also be started in South America. These interactions will make them observe the environment more closely.
Photo: An insect on an acerola tree.
6. Participate in BioSearch with them Get kids involved in initiatives like scheduled bio-searches. These are excellent opportunities to participate in competitions, as well as collaborations that turn out to be fun and friendly, such as the City Nature Challenge and the Great Southern BioSearch.
Children are easily motivated by these challenges, so it is an opportunity for them to be part of the observations and records of species in specific periods of time.
See how to get involved in Great Southern BioBlitz and explore biodiversity! (PS: remember to check the COVID recommendations on distance and social isolation). Photo: Citizen scientists at a BioSearch in South Australia, during World Wetlands Day, organized by Stephen Fricker and Seamus Doherty.