I admire high schools that require their students to do some kind of community service to graduate. I think we should all volunteer for community service at least once during our lives and preferably more than once. I also think that schools should require students to become citizen scientists. Perhaps elementary schools could adapt a citizen scientist requirement for graduation. They might if they knew what it meant to be a citizen scientist, how easy it is to participate, how much their students would learn, and how valuable their contributions would be to our environment.
A citizen scientist program is one in which everyday people (like you and me) volunteer to make scientific field observations and report their observations to a group of scientists. This sounds veryscientific but it isn’t. For example, in Cornell Laboratory’s Project FeederWatch citizens observe the birds at their backyard feeders for 15 minutes a week and report the species and numbers of each species that they see. Scientists benefit from this information; learning more about the movement of species, food preferences, eruptions, and general populations. Subscribers benefit by learning (from Cornell) how to identify species, from observing nature (which is proven to be beneficial to our health), and from knowing they are contributing to science while feeding and supporting wild birds. Besides all that, it’s fun!
From birds to frogs, stars to butterfly migrations, wildflowers to buds on trees, there is a citizen scientist program to suit every taste. Because these programs are designed for “everyday people” (like you and me) they are also well suited for your children to participate.
So let’s get together and ask our schools to promote (and someday require) participation in citizen sciencry (I just made up that word). And until they do, let’s you and I participate with our families. Take baby steps. Start with one simple program you can do with your kids.
Here are some programs, suggestions, and further reading:
A National Wildlife Federation article regarding Citizen Scientist Programs with links to programs: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Conservation/Citizen-Science/Citizen-Science-Programs.aspx
Some of the most popular citizen scientist programs in the world are from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=1664
Like sunflowers? Help follow bees: http://www.greatsunflower.org/
A magazine and website for Citizen Scientists from the Society for Amateur Scientists: http://www.sas.org/
Firefly Watch: https://www.mos.org/fireflywatch/