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Coastal Heritage Curriculum Connection

Explore Curriculum Connection guides, which are written to accompany each issue of Coastal Heritage, a quarterly publication of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

Coastal Heritage, Summer 2019 issue: Citizen Science: Encouraging Public Engagement

Focus Questions

  • Who qualifies as a “scientist”?
  • How can the public contribute to scientific research?
  • What types of citizen science projects are going on in my area, and how can I get involved?
  • What benefits are there to participating in citizen science?

Use the Curriculum Connection to Address These South Carolina Science Standards and Performance Indicators

This edition of Coastal Heritage focuses on public involvement with the process of scientific inquiry. As such, any grade-level class could use this issue to discuss science and engineering practices. In addition, the following specific science standards relate to citizen science projects covered in this edition. The relevant citizen science projects are listed after each standard.

K.E.3A.1 Analyze and interpret local weather condition data (including precipitation, wind, temperature, and cloud cover) to describe weather patterns that occur from day to day, using simple graphs and pictorial weather symbols. (CoCoRaHS)

1.E.3A.3 Obtain and communicate information to describe how technology has enabled the study of the Sun, the Moon, planets, and stars. (Galaxy Zoo)

2.E.2A.1 Analyze and interpret data from observations and measurements to describe local weather conditions (including temperature, wind, and forms of precipitation). (CoCoRaHS)

2.L.5B.3 Analyze and interpret data from observations to describe how animals respond to changes in their environment (such as changes in food availability, water, or air). (Audubon Bird Counts, From Seeds to Shoreline®)

3.E.4A.3 Obtain and communicate information to exemplify how humans obtain, use, and protect renewable and nonrenewable Earth resources. (Adopt-a-Stream, Beach Sweep/River Sweep, From Seeds to Shoreline®)

4.L.5A.2 Analyze and interpret data from observations and measurements to compare the stages of development of different seed plants. (From Seeds to Shoreline®)

5.E.3B.2 Develop and use models to explain the effect of the movement of ocean water (including waves, currents, and tides) on the ocean shore zone (including beaches, barrier islands, estuaries, and inlets). (From Seeds to Shoreline®)

6.L.4B.3 Construct explanations of how animal responses (including hibernation, migration, grouping, and courtship) to environmental stimuli allow them to survive and reproduce. (Audubon Bird Counts)

7.EC.5A.3 Analyze and interpret data to predict changes in the number of organisms within a population when certain changes occur to the physical environment (such as changes due to natural hazards or limiting factors). (From Seeds to Shoreline®)

8.E.4B.5 Obtain and communicate information to describe how data from technologies (including telescopes, spectroscopes, satellites, space probes) provide information about objects in the solar system and the universe. (Galaxy Zoo)

H.B.6D.1 Design solutions to reduce the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of an ecosystem. (Beach Sweep/River Sweep, From Seeds to Shoreline®)

H.C.5A.3 Use mathematical representations to analyze the concentrations of unknown solutions in terms of molarity and percent by mass. (Adopt-a-Stream)

H.P.2D.3 Obtain information to communicate how long-term gravitational interactions govern the evolution and maintenance of large-scale structures in the universe (such as the solar system and galaxies) and the patterns of motion within them. (Galaxy Zoo)

H.E.6A.5 Analyze and interpret data to describe how the quality of the water in drainage basins is influenced by natural and human factors (such as land use, domestic and industrial waste, weather/climate conditions, topography of the river channel, pollution, or flooding). (Adopt-a-Stream)

Lesson Links and Educational Resources

What Does a Scientist Look Like?

Before involving your students in citizen science projects, assess their prior perceptions of what a “scientist” looks like. This activity from the California Academy of Sciences is a great way to introduce your students to the concept of their own participation in real academic research in the classroom by addressing preconceptions and stereotypes about the science field. (K-12th)

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Regardless of your experience with avian identification, you can engage your students in bird-watching citizen science! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created several geographically accessible bird-counting citizen science projects that can be used in any classroom. To accompany these projects (eBird, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and more), the Cornell Lab’s education website provides access to free downloadable resources, including lesson plans and curriculum units. (K-12th)

Set Up a Rain Gauge at Your School

Join the Community Collaborative Rain Hail & Snow (CoCoRaHS ) monitoring network and make data collection an everyday part of your classroom. Using a 4” rain gauge mounted outside your school, your students will join an international network of precipitation monitoring that informs farmers, meteorologists, city planners, and more! (K-12th)

South Carolina Aquarium Litter Free Digital Journal

Get your students involved in a litter sweep at your school and add your finds to a growing set of data that is being used to impact real policy change. The citizen-collected data from this project has been presented to policymakers in forums dealing with plastic-bag bans in the state of South Carolina. The South Carolina Aquarium Litter Free Digital Journal is accessible both online and through smartphone apps. (K-12th)

Citizen Science: MyCoast App

Get your students involved in documenting flood-prone areas by downloading the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control-Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (SCDHEC-OCRM) smartphone application, MyCoast . Then, you and your students design a plan to document by taking photos of flood-prone areas near your school or homes, taking into consideration the following: flooding during a) normal high-tides, b) King Tides, and c) rainstorms. To access the tides in your area, please download the SCDHEC-OCRM tide table .

Find Your Own Citizen Science Project

Use SciStarter.org’s comprehensive database of ongoing citizen science projects to help tailor the experience to best fit your classroom. Search through projects by location, topic, or age group to find a project that will be most meaningful to your students!

Field Trip Opportunities

Beach Sweep/River Sweep

In conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, people across South Carolina work together to clean our waterways of debris each year on the third Saturday in September. All of the collected debris is categorized by type, and the data are compiled internationally. Coastal efforts are led by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, and inland cleanups are headed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Find a cleanup near you, or volunteer as a Site Captain in your area to lead your students in becoming caretakers of their local ecosystem.

Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest

Once you have introduced your students to your local birds, you can take your bird-watching citizen science to the next level. Bring your students to the 18,000-acre, pristine cypress-tupelo swamps at Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest bird and wildlife sanctuary, located an hour outside of Charleston. Use your eBird app or choose between naturalist-led, standards-based K-12 programs as you explore the 1.75-mile boardwalk through the untouched swamp.