Citizen science in Australian Classrooms

What better way is there to learn science than by doing science? In the new research project Learning By Doing, researchers are working to bring more authentic science learning experiences to classrooms across Australia. A/Prof Alice Motion and Dr Yaela Golumbic report.

We’re an interdisciplinary group of researchers from The University of Sydney and Taronga Conservation Society with a shared enthusiasm for citizen science and its potential benefits for education. 

Towards the end of 2020 we were thrilled to be awarded a grant by the NSW Education Strategic Fund and we’ve recently launched our website and Twitter account to start sharing our progress, and to build even stronger connections with schools, teachers and people working in citizen science so that we can work to embed citizen science in schools. 

We’re still seeking responses to a National Teacher Survey which aims to better understand hands-on learning approaches in primary and secondary schools across Australia – it takes 10 minutes to complete, and we’d love to hear from you if you are a current teacher or for you to share with your networks. This survey, combined with our other research strands will help us to better understand the current state of play for citizen science in schools so that we can establish ways to support teachers to bring citizen science to their classrooms. 

We’re also learning from citizen science project leaders through focus groups, working to align citizen science projects with the curriculum and designing a user friendly framework for the evaluation of learning dimensions in citizen science. 

We know that science education and enrolment is crucial for Australia’s future, and we want young people to feel connected to science and empowered to enter STEM careers. We believe that its equally important for people in careers outside of STEM to form positive associations with science while at school and we think citizen science represents a rich opportunity to achieve both important aims. 

Importantly, by engaging young people in science through the many citizen science projects in Australia (currently over 600 on the Australian Citizen Science Association’s Project Finder!) and beyond, school students might in turn engage members of their family and community to join in. 

Individually, members of our team have run a variety of citizen science projects from bird behaviouratmospheric gas monitoring and drug discovery and now we want to find ways to bring other citizen science projects to schools in Australia. We have so much to learn from teachers, students and school communities and we look forward to sharing more of our research outcomes along the way so that we can transform them into practical outcomes that make science at school more engaging and enjoyable. 

Complete the Learning By Doing survey

We are conducting research about Australian teachers’ knowledge and use of hands-on learning projects. We would love to hear from you, as your perspectives will help us design and implement school based projects.  The survey should take 10-15 minutes and your responses are completely anonymous.  Complete the survey

The Learning By Doing team will be sharing their research as part of the Australian Citizen Science Association’s Conference, CitSciOz21 from 27-29 October 2021. Registration is still open and there are keynotes from Dr Cathy Foley, Corey Tutt, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Costa Georgiadis and Prof Hugh Possingham.