written by Lisa Amstutz
Are you looking for ways to get kids excited about science? Citizen science might be the answer! These fun and educational projects let people of all ages participate in hands-on research about the natural world. The data they collect is shared with professional scientists. This helps scientists study things like animal migrations and populations on a much broader scale than they could otherwise do.
The longest-running citizen science project started in 1900. At that time, it was the custom in some circles to go out after Christmas dinner and shoot everything in sight. The hunter with the biggest pile won. Dismayed by the carnage, ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed counting birds instead of shooting them. The idea caught on, and today this event is known as the Christmas Bird Count. The Audubon Society uses the data collected during this annual census to track bird populations over time.
Read More About Citizen Science
Picture books are a great way to introduce the topic of citizen science and kick off your project. Two new books about the Christmas Bird Count are a good place to start. Finding a Dove for Gramps follows a boy and his mother as they participate in the bird count. And Counting Birds by Heidi Stemple tells the story of Frank Chapman. The two make a perfect pairing!
Other books to check out include Bat Count by Anna Forrester, Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Back Yard by Loree Griffin Burns, and Butterfly Count by Sneed Collard III.
Get Involved with Citizen Science
There are many citizen science projects in need of volunteers. The Great Backyard Bird Count, NestWatch, and FrogWatch USA are a few possibilities. The Journey North website lets kids track migrations and other seasonal changes. And anyone with a smartphone and computer can help scientists monitor light pollution through the Globe at Night project. Search for more projects by location and topic at https://scistarter.com/.
You may want to participate in the same project each year or keep exploring new ones. Either way, consider making citizen science an annual tradition in your family or classroom!
Lisa Amstutz is the author of more than 100 books for kids, including Finding a Dove for Gramps, a book about the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. She specializes in books about science and agriculture. Visit her online at www.LisaAmstutz.com.
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