Blog Post

Learning through Citizen Science: An Aspirational Vision and our Call to Creativity

by: the Education Working Group
CSA’s Education Working Group has taken on as its mission to enable, inspire, investigate, and facilitate effective integration of scientific and educational goals, practices, and outcomes within citizen science. We offer the CSA community a vision for what learning, and benefit to learners, is possible through participation in citizen science (CS). By “learning,” we are explicitly referring to those experiences that are designed to transforms the learner through the expansion of ideas, interests, sense of self, skills, etc.
This is our vision:
Through increased participation in CS, people of all ages and backgrounds contribute to science while building passion for and knowledge of how scientific investigations help us increase our understanding of the natural world.
CS offers a powerful tool to increase lifelong engagement in learning, to enhance participants’ sense of power or agency in increasing scientific knowledge through research, and to foster and feed participants’ curiosity so that their scientific identity and interests continue to expand and flourish. One of the most powerful attributes of the CSA community is the great diversity of projects. This diversity is visible in the broad scientific topics being pursued, in the questions to be addressed, the communities of people they engage, the protocols used – the list goes on. This wide-ranging diversity serves the community well, leading to innovation and invention, and is an extraordinary resource for reaching people with varied interests.
The Education Working Group sees in this diversity the potential for projects to reinvigorate civic engagement, broaden participation in all levels of science, awaken the curiosity and joy and caring in all kinds of people, ignite passions for looking and learning and questioning and discovering, and to welcome diverse learners with diverse interests, knowledge, talents, and motivations into the world of science. We see opportunity for CS projects to be used in formal and informal settings to achieve this potential as well as to contributing to increase in our collective scientific knowledge. We see this as essential to engaging more interested and scientifically literate people in addressing the world’s wickedly complex problems.
With this bold vision we are being both aspirational and intentional. We invite CS program designers and staff to reflect on their work through an aspirational lens. Our intention is NOT to explicitly encourage all CS programs to approach learning in the same way. We do hope to inspire the learning linked to CS programs to consider the many ways they already do serve, inspire, and support current participants.
And most importantly, we want to leverage the community that has come together in the CSA to create an opportunity for us—the citizen science practitioners and educators using citizen science—to reflect and refine our practice, to share our knowledge, best practices, and challenges so that we can collectively advance our capacity to serve future participants.
What are your best practices?
What are you most proud of in your work and why?
What are you most challenged by?
What topics would you love to tackle in collaboration with this community?

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