From the Classroom

Center for Community and Citizen Science Reflects on Recent Workshop

Center for Community and Citizen Science Reflects on Recent Workshop

REFLECTING ON THE WOOLMAN CENTER WORKSHOP

Named after a mythical land from a novela when the Spanish first arrived, California was said to be paradise on Earth. However, times have changed since the Spanish first laid their eyes on the place we now call home. Social activists have spoken openly about the disasters of environmental change and many, from the top of California’s government to grassroots organizations are beginning to create much more systematic and widespread awareness and change with initiatives. The California Department of Education’s Blueprint for Environmental Literacy is one such initiative that puts forward the ambitious goal of educating all students about the environment. The initiative’s focus on not just basic environmental knowledge but also how to to make rational decisions to help preserve our ecosystem.  

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One Teachers Experience in the Watershed Classroom

One Teachers Experience in the Watershed Classroom

This has been my second year taking part in the Friends of the Petaluma River Watershed Classroom, and I could not speak more highly of the program. While there are many meaningful components to the Watershed Classroom, what my students enjoy most are the walking field trips to local points along the watershed to perform water quality testing. At the beginning of the unit, students are trained in the classroom in how to conduct each test, along with being taught the significance of each test as it relates to the health of the river. Friends of the Petaluma River provides kits that enable the students to test for turbidity, salinity, ammonia, phosphorous, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, and pH. It is amazing to see the students out in the field, using the skills they have learned to test the water and make connections related to the health of the watershed. The Watershed Classroom has been an incredible component of my science classroom the past two years, and I look forward to many more years in the future!

Matt Jackson
7th Grade Teacher, PACS at McKinley School

Review Matt Jackson's Watershed Classroom Project Flush and the Curriculum

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What is Citizen Science?

Citizen Science is a term that comes up often in the Watershed Classroom but what does it really mean?

At Friends of the Petaluma River, we see citizen science as having a two part meaning.

  1. Data is collected by community members (in this case students!)
  2. Data is interpreted and used by professional scientists.

This second part is very important. There are plenty of school projects out there which involve collecting data and even analyzing it and using it to inform decisions in the classroom but the real magic of citizen science happens in this connection between our everyday community and the professional scientist community.

How Can You Get Involved in Citizen Science in Your Classroom?

 Students at McNear participating in a Bioblitz on campus using the iNaturalist app. 

Students at McNear participating in a Bioblitz on campus using the iNaturalist app. 

There are many projects across the United States which invite community input.

This semester, Watershed Classroom project Watershed Stewards is using iNaturalist to collect and share data about species on campus which will be analyzed and used by Point Blue’s STRAW program to inform restoration efforts on the creek which runs by the school’s campus. (Read all about their on campus Bioblitz here!) To use iNaturalist in the classroom, you do not even have to create your own project! There are many ongoing projects on iNaturalists that students can contribute to. 

Other popular citizen science projects are Project Budburst, which asks students to record the timing of flower blooms to contribute to research on climate change, and the Lost Ladybug Project, which studies changing ladybug populations across the United States.

However, there are countless projects out there on all sorts of topics! SciStarter.com has an entire database of incredible projects that you and your students can get involved in. It is an incredible resource!

Good Luck!

We hope you will try a citizen science project of your own in the classroom. We truly believe this is one of the most powerful tools in environmental education. Not only does it relate in-class lessons to real world issues but it empowers students to take meaningful actions which contribute to our understanding of the natural world.