By Dennis Schatz
Please join us in celebrating Citizen Science Day, which falls this year on Saturday, April 14th. This issue of Connected Science Learning is dedicated to highlighting effective citizen science programs that involve classroom students in collecting data for research scientists, while also engaging them in key STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) content and practices. Students get a “front row seat” to what scientists do and how scientists work, plus develop the reasoning skills and practices used by scientists.
SciStarter, an effort of Arizona State University that is featured as a Connected Science Learning Brief in this issue, nicely identifies the STEM learning impacts that quality citizen science projects have on the volunteer citizen scientists:
We know that the most effective STEM learning occurs when the content is relevant to the lives of the learner. Many citizen science efforts connect to the local needs of a community, or the interests of students, while adding to a body of knowledge that individual researchers could not accomplish on their own.
Read about how in North Carolina, middle school students, working with a wide spectrum of partners, help scientists:
Learn how the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, weaves indigenous knowledge, climate change learning, citizen science, and climate action into a program that engages indigenous youth in learning about climate change.
Given that this issue focuses on ways youth can support scientists in their research, it seems only appropriate to introduce the journal’s newest column, The Engaged Scientist. This column highlights scientists, engineers, and other science-based professionals’ efforts to enhance connected STEM learning that engages preK–12 youth in in-school and out-of-school learning experiences. The hope is that the column will “shine a light” on the way science-based professionals can add value to what happens in and out of the classroom. The column will also help science-based professionals see ways they can support STEM learning. This is especially important at a time when funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, are asking scientists to show the Broader Impact of their research.
The inaugural The Engaged Scientist column features seven researchers from the Northwest who helped teachers and students develop their data literacy using environmental data from Mt. Bachelor and the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.
I hope you enjoy the contributions in the three parts of issue 6. Stay tuned for the Maker-themed seventh issue, which will start coming out in July.
Dennis Schatz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Editor of Connected Science Learning and Senior Advisor at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington.