Time needed: About one hour, depending on the project you choose
Scientists study nature and conduct research to better understand how it works. They use what they learn to create solutions that help people, animals, and the environment. Scientists use a process called the scientific method to conduct research, solve problems, and learn new things.
Citizen science is when a scientist asks regular citizens to help with their research. It’s a way for everyday people to help scientists advance research.
To get started, learn about citizen science and choose a project on SciStarter.
Part 1: Learn about citizen science.
Discover new treatments for Alzheimer’s or cancer. Track a virus in real time to learn how it spreads. Find new ways to protect wildlife from extinction. These are only a few of the big challenges that scientists want to solve—but they need huge amounts of data to conduct their research. That’s where you come in!
Citizen scientists are people who are curious about the world and want to make a difference. They volunteer to collect data and send it to scientists. As a citizen scientist, you may be asked to take photos of clouds or streams, use your smartphone to monitor water and air quality, count the butterflies in your backyard, play games to help with medical research, and much more. No matter what project you choose, you’ll make the world a better place.
For this activity, you’re going to be a citizen scientist and contribute to scientific research! There are a lot of ways to get involved. For example, you can:
Whether you go outside or stay indoors, there are plenty of citizen science projects to choose from! SciStarter has more than 3,000, so we’ve picked a few that can be done anywhere in the country, can be completed any time of the year, and are well suited for Girl Scouts. Of course, you can do any project that interests you!
So to get ready for your activity, make sure to sign up as a Girl Scout on SciStarter and choose your citizen science project. Watch the videos; look at the time required, materials, and instructions; and find your perfect project!
Part 2: Get ready for your citizen science project.
Use the first steps of the scientific method to prepare for the project.
First, define the purpose of your research. When scientists start a new project, they choose the subject or purpose of their research. Sometimes this is something specific that a scientist wants to learn more about, like a certain bird or plant. Other times scientists may want to answer questions like, “Are the number of squirrels in a certain area increasing or decreasing? Why?" The questions they’re trying to answer are the scientific questions for their research.
When you looked at the different citizen science projects on SciStarter, you chose one project to participate in. The focus of that project is the purpose of the research you're about to do.
No matter the project you choose, you’ll be helping a scientist collect data. Data simply means information. It can be notes, drawings, photos, recordings, or videos of what you see and hear. Collecting data helps scientists answer their scientific questions.
So what’s the purpose of your research? What scientific question are you helping scientists answer? If you need to, watch the “Welcome” video from the scientists again on your SciStarter Dashboard.
Then form your hypothesis. Once scientists have a scientific question, they make an educated guess, or a hypothesis, about what they think the answer is. A hypothesis isn’t ever 100% right or wrong—if data confirms a hypothesis, it just means that the scientists have more data about the subject, its environment, and how it interacts with the world.
So what’s your hypothesis for the citizen science project? What do you think the answer is to the scientific question the scientists are trying to answer? Use what you already know about the topic or can reason to answer the scientific question.
Once you’ve made a hypothesis, review the project’s instructions on your SciStarter Dashboard. Then gather any tools or materials for your project and get ready to collect data!
Part 3: Record and submit data for your citizen science project.
Dig deeper into the scientific method as you collect data for your citizen science project.
First, collect data for your project. Observation is watching and noticing something using all your senses, especially sight. Observations are a type of data. They’re the beginning of every experiment and scientific discovery, and they give scientists a starting place to learn more about how the world works.
So start by looking around—what do you observe about your environment (the world around you)?
Next, use any listed materials to collect data for your project. Follow the instructions, found on your SciStarter Dashboard, to make sure you correctly collect all the data scientists have asked for.
Then review and log your data. When scientists come back from the field, they review their notes to make sure their data is detailed and matches what they observed.
So take a look at the data you collected and make sure it’s what you remember.
Once you’re ready, log your data through your SciStarter Dashboard.
Part 4: Analyze your data and form a conclusion.
For the last part of the activity, look at your data to learn something about your world.
First, analyze your data. Now that you’ve sent your data to the scientists, they’ll analyze it along with data from other citizen scientists around the world. Analyze means that the scientist looks at all the information and finds patterns to understand the world better. There are many different ways scientists could analyze their data. For example, they might compare it against other data sets, find a way to present it (like a graph, chart, etc.), or look at the data and decide they need to collect more!
Take a minute to analyze your data and think about what it could mean. What does your data tell you about the subject? How does it help answer the scientific question?
Then form a conclusion. Compare your results against your original hypothesis to form a conclusion. Do your results support your hypothesis?
Depending on your data, you may not be able to form a conclusion, and that’s OK! You’re still using the scientific method to learn something about your world, just like scientists.
When this happens to scientists, they might do more research, collect more or different data over a longer period, or change their entire research plan! These next steps can help them confirm that their results make logical sense.
And that’s it! You've used the scientific method to help scientists answer a question they have about the world. Even more, you’ve collected data and helped professional scientists with their research.
If you had fun doing this, you might want to continue collecting data for your citizen science project, explore other citizen science projects on SciStarter, or take action with the rest of the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey.
Troop Leaders: The instructions for all badge steps are available free of charge in the Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit.
Girl Scout Activity Zone activities have been adapted from existing Girl Scout programming.
Adapted from the Ambassador Think Like a Citizen Scientist, Part 1.