Monday, April 27, 2015
I love this book! Citizen Science Guide for Families: Taking Part in Real Science by Greg Landgraf. I found it at the library when looking into more ideas for citizen science projects for Jasper, and it was far better than any other resource I've found. It was published in 2013 so it's still very current.
Citizen science is a wonderful idea that is gaining popularity. Jasper is very interested in science, and I've always felt that actually doing real science ought to be a key part of his education. The idea is that ordinary citizens can help collect data for all kinds of scientific studies. Rather than just a few scientists and a handful of students collecting data for a study, people around the country or around the world can contribute their observations. Technology is especially helpful in spreading the word about citizen science projects, in aiding folks in making and contributing scientific observations, and in compiling data so that it can be used in a meaningful way.
This book has details on many national and regional projects throughout the US that are looking for volunteers, all of which are family friendly. Some require volunteers to commit to receiving training and participating at specific locations and times. Others just ask that if you're in the right place at the right time to observe something, that you submit some info about your observation. And still others ask that you use a computer at home, in your leisure time, to analyze data already collected, because often computers just can't see things the way humans can, and computers aren't curious when they find something unusual. The book can be used both for its detailed information on specific projects, and for inspiration. You may read about a citizen science project on something intriguing that is taking place in another state, and be inspired to search for a similar program in your area. Chapters include "Analytical Games and Puzzles", "Amphibians and Reptiles", "Birds", "Insects", "Other Animals", "Beaches", "Wetlands and Waterways", "Biodiversity", "Outer Space", "Plants and Fungi", and "Weather and the Seasons".
Another great resource is http://scistarter.com/ which is a vast, searchable and free database of citizen science projects. And of course if there's a specific field that really interests your child, be sure to ask around! Local naturalists, hobbyists, etc. may be able to clue you into citizen science projects that would be difficult to track down any other way.