Research boosts citizen science in the classroom

A new suite of resources to help school-aged students learn about science through participating in online citizen science projects is the result of a Victoria University of Wellington research project.

globe at night
The observations, inferences and wonderings of year 5 and 6 students after exploring Globe at Night, one of the online citizen science projects featured on the Science Learning Hub.

The research, led by Associate Professor Markus Luczak-Roesch from the University’s School of Information Management and Dr Dayle Anderson from the School of Education, sought to identify approaches for effectively integrating online citizen science (OCS) in the education of primary school age children in New Zealand.

Through four case studies, the researchers explored the factors behind successful OCS projects in school.

“OCS allows students to engage with topics that are otherwise potentially inaccessible in a classroom—for example, studying space,” says Associate Professor Luczak-Roesch.

“Teachers also indicated the importance of students seeing the impact of the contributions they made and the outcome of the project. Projects with a link to the local context were found to be preferred by teachers, as they highlight cultural responsiveness—an important but understudied aspect.”

The research project was funded by the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI).

As part of the project, the researchers have created a suite of resources on the Science Learning Hub website for teachers to access and gather information on running successful OCS projects.

“The projects can be filtered by the science learning capabilities,” says Associate Professor Luczak-Roesch. “There will also be reviews from our teachers where they report their success stories on what worked and what didn’t.”

Melissa Coton, a teacher of year 5 and 6 students at Boulcott School in Lower Hutt, incorporated an OCS project ‘Globe at Night’ as part of a learning unit on light.

“The project provided a fantastic interactive activity that supported students to locate constellations and to practise making judgements about the level of light pollution. We had a high level of engagement and students were excited to share their observations of light pollution around their own homes,” says Melissa.

“Students were able to discuss the physical properties of light and to explain what light pollution is and how it impacts humans, the natural world, and the work of astronomical scientists. The project provided a good platform to explore and discuss data collection and the reliability of evidence.”

Dr Anderson says she is hugely grateful to the Science Learning Hub for helping to make the research more visible to New Zealand schools and teachers.

“It’s incredible to hear from teachers who are enjoying the outcomes of our research, and we are excited to see them come alive in the classroom. Participating in OCS helped develop students’ science capabilities such as careful observation and interpreting data, as well as their understanding of the nature of scientific work.

“This was a great project for the University—working both with teachers and across various faculties to highlight innovative and effective science teaching and learning in science.”

Caption: The observations, inferences and wonderings of year 5 and 6 students after exploring Globe at Night, one of the online citizen science projects featured on the Science Learning Hub.