Aligning Needs: Integrating Citizen Science Efforts into Schools Through Service Requirements

Hum Comput (Fairfax). 2019;6(1):56-82.


Citizen science is the participation in scientific research by members of the public, and it is an increasingly valuable tool for both scientists and educators. For researchers, citizen science is a means of more quickly investigating questions which would otherwise be time-consuming and costly to study. For educators, citizen science offers a means to engage students in actual research and improve learning outcomes. Since most citizen science projects are usually designed with research goals in mind, many lack the necessary educator materials for successful integration in a formal science education (FSE) setting. In an ideal world, researchers and educators would build the necessary materials together; however, many researchers lack the time, resources, and networks to create these materials early on in the life of a citizen science project. For resource-poor projects, we propose an intermediate entry point for recruiting from the educational setting: community service or service learning requirements (CSSLRs). Many schools require students to participate in community service or service learning activities in order to graduate. When implemented well, CSSLRs provide students with growth and development opportunities outside the classroom while contributing to the community and other worthwhile causes. However, CSSLRs take time, resources, and effort to implement well. Just as citizen science projects need to establish relationships to transition well into formal science education, schools need to cultivate relationships with community service organizations. Students and educators at schools with CSSLRs where implementation is still a work in progress may be left with a burdensome requirement and inadequate support. With the help of a volunteer fulfilling a CSSLR, we investigated the number of students impacted by CSSLRs set at different levels of government and explored the qualifications needed for citizen science projects to fulfill CSSLRs by examining the explicitly-stated justifications for having CSSLRs, surveying how CSSLRs are verified, and using these qualifications to demonstrate how an online citizen science project, Mark2Cure, could use this information to meet the needs of students fulfilling CSSLRs.