Taking part in citizen science projects promotes civic competence and community engagement – one of the primary aims of the social studies curriculum.
As well as teaching students about the ideas and values of democracy, citizen science projects may be specifically linked to the fields of environmental science, geography and anthropology, all key individual subjects that intersect with the social studies curriculum.
By participating in citizen science projects, students actively engage in real-world data collection and analysis. They become citizen scientists themselves, contributing to scientific research and making a meaningful impact on the world around them.
Integrating citizen science projects into a social studies curriculum allows for interdisciplinary connections, fostering a comprehensive understanding of topics.
In addition, as the projects can be undertaken anywhere and at any time, they are not only a useful element of classroom instruction, but they can also help students to consolidate learning at home while collaborating and connecting with the wider community.
Supplementing Conventional Classroom Teaching
Because they cover a broad range of topics and approaches to further understanding, citizen science projects make a good complement to the school curriculum. As well as supplementing traditional lessons in the classroom, the projects can be undertaken at home at any time either as a personal project or during private tuition.
Some students may need assistance with the core elements of schooling or other more specialist subjects within the social sciences curriculum, and extra lessons with a reputable private home tutor can help them gain confidence and reach their learning goals.
Tutors and teachers can use citizen science projects as an effective multidisciplinary resource, as the focus of collecting data or monitoring the local environment not only helps students to learn specific academic facts but also to develop more general comprehension, reasoning and problem-solving skills.
Encouraging Active Learning In the Community
By participating in citizen science projects, students become actively engaged in real-world data collection and analysis. Citizen science projects often address issues related to the environment and local communities.
By integrating them into the social studies curriculum, students gain a deeper understanding of global challenges and the interconnectedness between humans and their environment.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences supports collaborations between scientists, local communities and students that address environmental health issues such as soil toxicity and air quality and oil spills.
By becoming involved with these projects students can deepen their knowledge of a range of subjects and improve their learning skills through collecting data, assessing results and even developing public speaking skills by giving presentations at local community meetings.
Enhancing Understanding of The Physical World
Geography is an important element of the social studies curriculum as it helps students to understand the world around them. There are a number of citizen science projects that focus on documenting changes in the environment and the impact of human activity on the landscape, natural resources and weather patterns. These include projects like ISeeChange, NASA GLOBE Observer and more.
They cover a variety of tasks including collecting weather data to improve forecasting and climate studies, carrying out tests to monitor water quality and taking photographs to document gradual changes in the landscape.
By becoming involved in observing and evaluating geographical data, students can achieve a greater understanding of how human behavior impacts climate and the environment as a whole, and learn how to evaluate the political and economic solutions to these issues.
Bringing Important Historical Events to Life
The growing number of citizen science projects that address social sciences and humanities help to enrich scientific research with a human dimension.
As well as monitoring the impact of civilization on the natural environment, citizen science projects can be used to study history through anthropological research, archeological investigation and the archiving of significant past events.
These studies in social science not only inform students of important facts but also help them to learn about their place in a democratic and culturally diverse society. Projects are often run by libraries and museums looking for help from the public in transcribing–preserving and recording memories of historical events.
From transcribing documents written by contemporaries of Shakespeare and other historical figures to digitizing the diaries of WWI soldiers, these sociological projects can help students immerse themselves in history and develop a greater understanding of how they have changed the world in which we live.
Through the incorporation of citizen science into the social studies curriculum students not only learn important academic content but also become actively involved in real-world issues.
Projects can enhance traditional classroom teaching and are a useful resource for students studying at home alone or with a private tutor.
While citizen science projects cover a wide variety of subjects in the field of social studies, they can also be a more general way to trigger curiosity, develop learning skills and engage students of all ages in the local community.
Jackie Edwards is a semi-retired environmental educator and freelance writer.