Back to School with Citizen Science and NGSS!

Make citizen science a part of your classroom routine with SciStarter’s Back to School Series!

Credit: jarmoluk / Pixabay / Public Domain CC0

Here are 10 citizen science projects you can use in your classroom. SciStarter’s Karen McDonald aligned them with the new Next Generation Science Standards! Click the title of each project to link to detailed blog posts describing how the project can work in your classroom, and how it aligns with NGSS. Then, click “Get Started” to go directly to the SciStarter website to learn more about the project.

Related links:

Integrating Citizen Science Into Your Classroom

SciStarter’s Classroom Picks!



The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)

Join researchers from the Colorado Climate Center in tracking weather and precipitation data across the US. This data is used by the National Weather Service, city managers, and the USDA. In conjunction with this project, the Paleontological Research Institution has developed curriculum for ages 8-12 called “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard”. Get Started.


Project Noah

Challenge your students help document the biodiversity of their local plants, animals, insects and more. You can join global or regional missions or create your own private mission for students (that only you and your students can see). There are virtual rewards and the data is available to download and use in the classroom. Get Started.

Credit: Victor Loewen
Credit: Victor Loewen

Urban Birds

Team up with Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, and the Celebrate Urban Birds project (CUB), to help researchers track different species of urban wildlife. The project offers bilingual materials and focuses on 16 different urban bird species, with 10 minute observation periods. There’s lots of free support materials (and kits) for teachers too!  Get Started.



Journey North: Monarch Migration

Join researchers to track and monitor monarch populations. There are real time maps, data you can download, and lesson plans. Even if you live in an area without monarchs, there is plenty of information about monarchs, their life cycles, migration patterns, and much more.Get Started.

Credit: NASA

Map Mars and Be a Martian With NASA

Become a Martian explorer and help count craters and topographical features found in photos from the Mars rover. There are supporting videos, games, and activities galore. The site can be overwhelming with so much to offer, but our blog helps distill it down (click on the heading to read more). NASA provides amazing tools for teachers for this project too.  Get Started.


The Lost Ladybug Project

Can you and your class help track the distribution of native and invasive ladybugs? This project has many resources for teachers, and it’s fun and easy to participate. You can start with insect anatomy and move through population ecology, all with this citizen science activity. Get Started.

Credit: NOAA
Credit: NOAA

Phytoplankton Monitoring Network

Students can take on the role of phytoplankton biologists by helping NOAA scientists track and monitor species of plankton in their local waters. This is part of a larger scale project called REDM or the Regional Ecosystem Data Management systemGet Started.

Credit: School of Ants
Credit: School of Ants

School of Ants

Back to school is cool with ants! Participate in the Your Wildlife project to help catalog urban ant biodiversity at your school. Participation is simple, with step by step instructions, and there is a great guide of common species of ants available online for freeGet Started.

Credit: Celeste Mazza
Credit: Celeste Mazza

Migratory Dragonfly Partnership and Pond Watch Project

Dragonflies migrate just like butterflies, birds, and fish. Your classroom can help track their movements with the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership and Pond Watch. Observations can include that of adults, and juveniles in ponds and bodies of water. Students can learn all about life cycles, migration, and dragonfly behavior. Get Started.


Quake Catcher Network

Earthquakes are making headlines right now! Join this timely citizen science network, supported by Stanford University and UC Berkeley, to help track and monitor earthquakes around the globe. You can get free materials (including a USB enabled sensor!), download data, and much more! Get Started.



When not writing her science and education blog The Infinite SpiderKaren McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for the Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel. You can find her most evening rowing or writing.

Categories: Citizen Science, Science Education Standards

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About the Author

Karen McDonald

Karen McDonald

When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.