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The utility of citizen science projects in K-5 schools: measures of community engagement and student impacts


The field of citizen science is one of the fastest growing sectors in informal education, specifically because of the new opportunities that are now available within today’s digitized and networked world. This paper describes a unique co-created citizen science project, WeatherBlur, which brought fishermen, elementary students, and teachers from island and coastal communities together with research scientists via an online platform to share, analyze, and interpret data about the local impact of climate change. The project was designed utilizing a sociocultural learning approach that integrated communities of practice, knowledge building, funds of knowledge, and place-based education theory. The study aimed to understand how scientists, community members, and students interact to promote learning and collaboration within an online learning community. In addition, the study addressed the impact of the program on elementary student learning outcomes in earth science and graph interpretation. Data analyses suggest that the model implemented provided a high level of interactivity across all ages and groups, and increased students’ understanding of earth science and skills in graph interpretation. Findings are used to describe the utility of using citizen science projects in K-5 schools.

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We would like to thank Martin Lodish, Nancy Miles, Marie Pryor, Jane Robertson, and Michael Weatherwax for assisting in the data collection and data coding for this study. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant numbers DRL#1217247 and DRL#1451315. We would also like to thank all of the outstanding teachers that worked hand-in-hand with us throughout the duration of this project, Laura Venger, Marci Train, Paula Johnson, Josh and Heidi Holloway, Kristin Westra, Nancy Earnest, Maggie Small, and Bev Johnson.

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Correspondence to Ruth Kermish-Allen PhD.

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The authors confirm that they have no conflict of interest with CSSE, including any interest or relationship, financial or otherwise, that might be perceived as influencing an author’s objectivity is considered a potential source of conflict of interest.

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Lead editor: Ruth Kermish-Allen.

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Kermish-Allen, R., Peterman, K. & Bevc, C. The utility of citizen science projects in K-5 schools: measures of community engagement and student impacts. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 14, 627–641 (2019).

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  • Weather and climate
  • Elementary school
  • Citizen science
  • Online learning
  • Co-created citizen science