SciStarter in the Classroom
One of the most important parts of the SciStarter mission is to satisfy the popular urge to tinker, build, and explore by making it simple and fun for people to jump in and get their hands dirty with science. This vision, of course, includes people of all ages! This is a burgeoning initiative by SciStarter to be a resource for students, educators (in classrooms and for home school), scouts, and curious minds alike. We're happy that our partnership with the National Science Teachers' Association (NSTA) allows us to connect projects to a robust community of educators.
SciStarter believes that a hands-on, face-to-face experience with science enables us to learn how to think critically. When we choose to learn by doing, we begin to formulate questions, experiment, and seek our own answers. Sometimes, it opens our eyes to how little we actually know about the world. The merits of engaging in citizen science abound, benefiting both participants and researchers.
Be sure to check out Karen McDonald's Citizen Science in the Classroom series if you're interested in how citizen science projects can meet Common Core and Next Generation STEM standards. And, thanks to our friends at Students Discover, you'll find high quality curriculum for middle schools co-created by scientists and educators in support of participation in citizen science! Lastly, be sure to check out California Academy's Citizen Science in the Classroom resources!
Note: There are many projects from our Project Finder that are suitable for students and have teaching materials available. The projects below are only a representative sample of citizen science projects with online and offline accessibility for educators.
Help scientists find and photograph ladybugs so they can try to prevent more native species from becoming so rare.
Help scientists learn more about butterflies and the environment by submitting butterfly count from 15 minutes of observation. Counting butterflies for just fifteen minutes could help scientists better understand the environment. The Big Butterfly Count is a recently started national survey that hopes to engage citizen scientists by creating easy and engaging survey methods. This is an easy, fun, and meaningful way to engage in science. Print out an identification poster, get outside, and start counting!
Help track population changes of five bee species. Take and submit photos of bees near you. This project requires a camera, the ability to send an e-mail with a photo attachment and patience. A GPS unit (or equivalent) would also be helpful.
Help learn more about dragonfly migration in North America. Report movements of 5 main migratory species. Become part of an international network of citizen scientists and help monitor the spring and fall movements of the 5 main migratory species in North America, or report on these species throughout the year at a pond or wetland of your choice.
Help scientists learn how urbanization affects spiders. Spot, record, and share sightings of spiders in Los Angeles. The project asks people to collect spiders in their homes and gardens, fill out a sample data sheet, and send or bring the spiders and forms to the National History Museum.
Help researchers learn about native and introduced species of ants by collecting samples and mailing them in! Teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol so that project coordinators can make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside their doorsteps.
Provide weather data to meteorologists! Measure rain, hail, and snow. Each time a rain, hail, or snow storm occurs, students can help take measurements of precipitation from around them and submit the data online. Reports of 'zero' precipitation are encouraged too!
Accelerate cancer research to help find cures by classifying images of cancer cells. After a 10-minute tutorial, you can view images of cancer cells in an image carousel. Each image you will see is a tiny tumour sample from a huge dataset. Help scientists accelerate the analysis of this data by identifying the coloured sections of the image using our prompts, and bring forward the cures for cancers.
The Encyclopedia of Life is an online, collaborative project where you can learn about any species on Earth, as well as contribute information and submit photos. This global initiative seeks to create an "infinitely expandable" resource for all of our planet’s 1.9 million known species. Use as a resource in the classroom or for homework assignments.
Help scientists understand changing climates in your area. Make regular observations of your plants and submit data. Whether you have an afternoon, a few weeks, a season, or a whole year, you can make an important contribution to a better understanding of changing climates. Participating in Project BudBurst, a NEON citizen science program, is easy – everything needed to participate is on the web site. Choose a plant to monitor and share your observations with others online. Not sure where to start? Take a look at the Ten Most Wanted species.
Help scientists study long-term space travel by monitoring the growth of tomato seeds exposed to space conditions. Tomatosphere aims to inspire students by engaging them in real and meaningful science. Students are charged to monitor and record the germination rate for pre-treated tomato seeds in order to give researchers a better understanding of the long-term viability of growing tomatoes in space.
Create world map of the health of water bodies. World Water Monitoring Day is an international program that encourages citizen volunteers to monitor their local water bodies. An easy-to-use test kit enables everyone from children to adults to sample local water bodies for basic water quality parameters: temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen.
Help scientists with ongoing research. Document nature with your mobile phone. Noah is a mobile phone app that students can use to document local wildlife and add their observations to a growing database for use by ongoing citizen-science projects.
This project uses internet and sensors (subsidized or free for K-12 classrooms) to connect schools and other entities to an earthquake monitoring network. The idea of this project is to create earthquake and seismology awareness, as well as recording data though a “distributed computing network.” This means that your classroom’s computer will be linked to a network of other computers relaying information back to the central hub monitoring for earthquakes.
Help scientist improve maps of Mars and participate in other research tasks to help NASA manage the large amount of data from the Red Planet. Users create Martian profiles and become "citizens" of the planet. In the map room, citizens can then earn Martian credits by helping place satellite photos on Mars’s surface, counting craters, and even helping the rovers Spirit and Opportunity by tagging photos with descriptions.
Help scientists understand how we perceive sounds. Listen to recordings of laughter. Decide if they're real or not. The results will help scientists from University College London to understand the way we perceive and react to different sounds. The experiment should take about 10 minutes.
Help scientists measure, understand effects of light pollution. Use a free app to identify as many visible stars as possible. The more stars you observe, and the more often you run the app, the more precise the data for your location will become. As the seasons change so do the stars in the sky, and since there aren't so many very bright stars it is extremely helpful if urban users do measurements in each season.
Help scientists create accurate climate models by transcribing 19th-century weather logs from U.S. ships. Could be used in conjuction with a history lesson! These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and will improve our knowledge of past environmental conditions. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board.
Test your own number sense and assess humans' math knowledge. Panamath is a free-standing software that can be used to assess number sense - your intuitive recognition of numbers and their relationship. Use Panamath to test your own number sense, read more about the research being done or download the software and adapt it for your own research or educational purposes.
NanoDoc is an online game that allows bioengineers and the general public to design new nanoparticle strategies towards the treatment of cancer. You’ll learn about nanomedicine and explore how nanovehicles can cooperate with each other and their environment to kill tumors.
Understand how proteins can fold incorrectly to cause disease. Install software on your computer that will perform calculations while your computer is idle. Help Stanford University scientists studying Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's, and many cancers by simply running a piece of software on your computer.
This project is a unique blend of linguistics and psychology.Help scientists train computers to understand language by playing a variety of games that ask you about the meaning of words. Rather than try to work out the definition of a word all at once, we have broken the problem into a series of separate tasks. Each task has a fanciful backstory, but at its heart, each task is asking about a specific component of meaning that scientists suspect makes up one of the building blocks of meaning. You can participate for as little as a few minutes or come back to the site over and over to help code the many thousands of words in English.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) is recruiting volunteers to collect and update USGS geographic data. Similar to how other online crowdsourcing cartographic applications allow anyone to collect, edit, and use geographic data through an online map editor, the USGS has developed an online editor customized to our data needs that allows volunteers to contribute data to The National Map.
NASA's Radio JOVE project enables students and amateur scientists to observe natural radio emissions from Jupiter, the Sun, and our galaxy. Participants learn about radio astronomy first-hand by building their own radio telescope from an inexpensive kit and/or using remote radio telescopes through the Internet. They also collaborate with each other through interactions and sharing of data on the network.
Don’t see what you’re looking for? You can also find citizen science projects with teaching materials at CosmoQuest's Educators Zone, NOVA Labs for Educators, Project Budburst's Educator Resources, VisionLearning's various STEM lesson plans, Your Wild Life, and Zooniverse's ZooTeach.
Here's a NSTA book recommendation for teachers looking for citizen science ideas: CitizenScience: 15 Lessons That Bring Biology to Life, grades 6-12 and
If you have any questions or suggestions, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.