Taking Citizen Science and Running With It “Quickly”

Taking Citizen Science and Running With It “Quickly”
By Jane Lee

In 2008, COSEE-West was asked to run a professional development workshop for the newly-formed Marina del Rey (MDR) Middle School Marine Science Academy. Teachers at MDR needed an introduction to the marine sciences as well as guidance on how their particular subject could be integrated with ocean science. As part of this week-long workshop, COSEE-West staff, in collaboration with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, introduced MDR teachers to the LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) program. This program utilizes students to collect standardized data while monitoring sandy beach and rocky intertidal habitat.

Once the school year started, one of the MDR teachers, Mrs. Leticia Escajeda, told her students about the QuikSCience Challenge and how students could compete to win exciting, all-expenses-paid trips to places like Catalina Island. A group of 6th grade students came together to form a team and enter the QuikSCience competition, and they chose to use the LiMPETS program as part of their science project. This team ended up winning the middle school division of the QuikSCience Challenge! Following is an excerpt of the interview with the team regarding their amazing year:

Q: Why did you want to enter this competition?
Team member (TM) 1: I wanted to go to Catalina, so I entered the competition to win a trip to Catalina.
TM2: TM1 asked if we wanted to win a trip to Catalina, and I said, “Well, yeah,” so we talked to Mrs. Escajeda, and she told us about the project and what we were going to have to do. It sounded really interesting so we said yes.

Q: What did it feel like when you guys found out you had won the competition?
TM2: I started crying.
TM1: ...And I thought, “Huh, well there’s my resume, starting already.”

Q: What did you think about science before the QuikSCience challenge?
TM2: It was kinda boring. [Other team members are nodding their heads]

Q: What about it was boring?
TM2: The work that you have to do for it, and I’m not that good at it, so I wasn’t that interested.
TM1: I thought that science was boring except for fieldwork and physical science.
TM3: My liking for science was always technology…this [QuikSCience challenge] was a brand new step to my dreams. I figured out that there’s more than one thing you can like in this world, there’s thousands of possibilities.
TM4: The only thing that wasn’t boring was when we went to the field trips.
TM5: I thought science was always boring because we always sit in class and read our textbooks and do some work. But, in 6th grade I found that science could be fun because we go on fieldtrips and do some sandcrab things.

Q: Do you like science more now, after doing the project?
All TM: Yeah.
TM1: We’re already thinking about next year.
TM2: We definitely want to do the project again. Do the QuikSCience project.

Q: For Mrs. Escajeda, did you notice a change in your students from before vs. after the project?
Ms.E: I think so. I think they were becoming more and more excited about teaching and teaching others about sandcrabs. And I think they started to realize that they can make a difference, even though they’re 6th graders. They’ve come a long way since October/November, when we started this. I think they’re better leaders now, even in their own classrooms.

Q: I’m hearing a common thread here, in that sitting in a classroom is boring, but going out on fieldtrips is fun. Have you noticed through all your years of teaching that you get more of a response when you take students outside?
Ms.E: …I think that as long as students are doing some type of hands-on activity, they’ll learn a lot easier…and it’ll stay in their brains a lot longer, because they’re actually doing the science rather than just reading about it and not understanding the vocabulary. When you’re doing hands-on activities, such as in the fieldtrips, or just out in the yard, they’re using the vocabulary, and that’s what’s important.

Q: Do you guys feel like you learn more when you go out and do fieldtrips?
TM2: We’re more involved. [All team members are nodding their heads]

Q: What is it about these fieldtrips and going outside that you like?
TM4: Well, we actually get involved more than just reading. I think it’s better to do activities than just like reading textbooks, because then we understand it more while we’re having fun.
TM1: Our motivation is, uh, that when we finish we can go in the water. So that’s what makes it fun.
Ms.E: …When they get down to the beach and they finish their work, they’re having fun afterwards, they’re allowed to go and play with their friends…Even hands-on activities in the classroom, those are things that they’re doing with their friends, and they wouldn’t be able to do that back at home. That’s what makes it fun for them and easy for them to learn.