Citizen Science

Compared to our math and lit programs, our science curriculum feels a bit thin. We have some good books; we’ve got a microscope and a telescope and curious and engaged kids; but we don’t have an actual science program, so to speak. Here’s to making some changes, in pursuit of citizen science: two studies in which we plan to participate.

PictureSix-pack rings floating around in the Pacific Gyre and flip-flops washed up on the beach make for good photography, but even more disconcerting is the amount of invisible plastic concentrated in our water. Plastic never goes away; instead, it breaks down into microparticles that are ingested by fish and work their way up the food chain. How widespread is this problem? Hard to say; but sailors the world over have been collecting data and sending it in to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. More people=more data. We’re excited to help our kids understand why we try to limit plastics in our lives, and for them to be active participants in a global study.

We also plan on participating in a study measuring algae growth. The hypothesis is that rising sea surface temps have lead to a decrease in phytoplankton. Sailors can measure this decrease by suing a Secchi disk to check for visibility; the farther down you can see the white disk, the clearer the water. The University of Wisconsin at Madison has a long history with Secchi disks–North American limnology was founded here–and our kids will learn to be ambassadors for water sampling. Head to Secchi Disk to sign up.Image description

Photo from Secchi Disk 

Both of these opportunities came to us via the lovely folks at Hello Ocean, who are developing their own citizen science research projects. It’s an amazing thing, to have project-based science activities that actually contribute to the scientific community. Which projects would you sign up for?

Repurposing kids’ science gear: rock polisher turned paint-stirrer

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