Have your pupils ever taken part in the RSPB’s Big Garden or Big Schools’ Birdwatch? Have they monitored bugs, air quality, worms, soil or trees for an OPAL survey? Have they sent details of nesting birds or urban foxes to the BBC’s Springwatch? Or been fortunate enough to report sightings of red squirrels, or even whales off the coast?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these or similar questions, consider yourselves ‘citizen scientists’!
TCV in Scotland describes citizen science as ‘about getting everyone, from experts to amateur biologists, school children or enthusiastic beginners, involved in science’. Access to the internet and the power of ‘big data’ handling means anyone across the globe can get involved in – and learn from – fieldwork activities in their own environment.
Education Scotland recently published Citizen science and Curriculum for Excellence, providing guidance for teachers on how to embed citizen science in learning across the curriculum. Citizen science activities are listed as: observing and monitoring, informing action, promoting learning, helping communities learn about their local environment, testing hypotheses and crowd-sourcing. These activities are relevant to science, numeracy & maths, literacy, social studies and health & wellbeing. Education Scotland also points out the possibilities for citizen science to contribute to learning for sustainability, career awareness and digital skills.
Scotland’s Environment website has links to numerous topics and projects looking for contributions, with many offering tools to support fieldwork in school or community groups. It encourages everyone ‘to get involved in looking after the environment, because you’re part of it, everything you need comes from it, and everything you do changes it’.
As we celebrate the Year of Fieldwork, FSC is highlighting the range of skills and opportunities provided through out-of-classroom learning. Carrying out fieldwork as citizen scientists adds yet another benefit to each observation and experience.
FSC Scotland is a partner in the OPAL scheme, providing OPAL packs and delivering sessions to schools in Scotland led by our own OPAL scientists.