A Youth-Led Citizen Science Network for Community Environmental Assessment
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing a technology-rich, out-of-school time STEM program for underserved middle and high school youth. The new program features citizen science activities involving mobile sensors, drones, mapping software, and other technologies associated with environmental science data collection and careers. Four learning modules will be developed that focus on air, noise, and soil pollution, and how factors associated with land use contribute to different types of pollution. Field data will be compared to land cover classifications to examine how pollutants are related to and influenced by natural and built environments. Participants will also use their developing technology skills to communicate their findings to larger audiences using a website, digital stories, videos, and citizen science cafes. In the science cafes, youth will gain leadership skills by guiding their parents or caregivers, siblings, and the community at large in citizen science activities. This project extends the typical pattern of citizen science projects by having participants go beyond joining established citizen science projects to initiating their own projects grounded in issues and affordances of their local communities. If successful, the model from this project has the potential to be broadly adapted to other communities and linked to research of local or regional interest or importance.
This design and development project will directly engage 45 students in grades 8 and 9, with potential for reaching over 300 individuals as participants' families and community members become involved in citizen science cafes. Most project activities will take place at government subsidized housing sites. The program progresses through five elements: curriculum development, instructor preparation, immersive summer sessions, school-year sessions for participating youth, and citizen science cafes. The project will develop four teaching modules: Air Pollution, Noise Pollution, Soil Pollution, and Natural and Built Environments. Students will gain experience with field research methods while learning to collect high-quality data using various sensors and related technologies. They will use the data to answer scientific questions. A mixed methods approach will be employed to examine outcomes related to the research questions: (1) How does participation in community-focuses environmental citizen science impact the development of three aspects of science: performance, competence, and recognition as a scientist? (2) To what extent and how does participation in community-focused environmental citizen science activities move youth towards full participation in the science community? and (3) How do levels of performance, competence, and recognition influence progress towards full participation in the science community? Data sources will include a student science identity survey, a test of relevant knowledge, a student interview protocol, a student observation protocol, student artifact rubrics, and a parent/caregiver interview protocol. Interviews will be conducted with student participants at regular intervals, and with parents/caregivers at the end of program sessions. <br/> <br/>This project will expand the existing ITEST portfolio by addressing important questions relating to community-relevant curricula, linkages of formal and informal education, and examining potential new elements of STEM learning ecosystems, including the use of student-initiated citizen science endeavors and youth-led citizen science cafes. Through the embedded research, this project will also advance understanding of science identity development and its relationship to STEM occupational choices.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.