Citizen Scientists

Thomas and Brown’s A New Culture of Learning highlights that teachers learn from their students. This reminds me that citizen scientists can make important contributions that benefit scientists. “Citizen science is a rigorous process of scientific discovery, indistinguishable from conventional science apart from the participation of volunteers. When properly designed, carried out, and evaluated, citizen science can provide sound science, efficiently generate high-quality data, and help solve problems” (USGS, 2017). I mention citizen science because it shares a similarity with the new culture of learning. “The new culture of learning gives us the freedom to make the general personal and then share our personal experience in a way that, in turn, adds to the general flow of knowledge” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p.31). Both citizen science and the new culture of learning expand knowledge. It is worthwhile to note that citizen scientists make important contributions to environmental protection, conservation science, and natural resource management (USGS, 2017).

Thomas, D & Brown, J.S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning.

U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS). (2017). Citizen science can improve conservation science, natural resource management, and environmental protection. Retrieved from

5 Replies to “Citizen Scientists”

  1. We use citizen science in entomology as well! When the experiment is well thought out, it provides a way for scientists to gather exponentially more data than we could on our own. One example that comes to my mind is studying monarch butterfly migration. It used to be a great mystery where monarchs moved throughout the year. Citizen scientists tagged the wings of these butterflies and recorded the tag number and location. Then, they sent their records into a research group who compared the release location to the location where tagged butterflies were recovered. This helped them map the movement of the butterfly across North America. All that to say, citizen science is great in that it aids in research and engages the public in learning.

    Also here’s a link to a group working on citizen science with monarchs if you’re interested:

  2. Thanks for your post! I really appreciate how you connected citizen science to the ideas described in A New Culture of Learning. One thing that stuck out to me in that reading was the idea that we should “embrace what we don’t know, come up with better questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more, both incrementally and exponentially. The goal is for each of us to take the world in and make it part of ourselves.” Citizen science is a great way to do that! And I really liked the example that Whitney provided. It is really cool to become involved with a project that is interesting, contribute to a better understanding of the world around us, and discover other questions to ask. This has definitely gotten me thinking about ways that these ideas can be incorporated into the learning environments for students that I may teach. Thanks for your post!

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