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Primary Education News
News Five ways to turn your students into citizen scientists
Join a mission to Mars or eavesdrop on whale chit-chat by taking part in interactive research projects that are fast turning pupils into scientific pioneers
The rise of citizen science is putting schools on the frontline of research, turning classrooms into labs and pupils into pioneers. It's all part of an exciting new method of conducting scientific research using data collected by amateur or non-professional scientists.
From boldly going where no man or student has gone before by charting the surface of Mars to more down to earth activities such as counting bugs, there is a myriad of valuable projects which teachers can get their class involved with. Here are five projects perfect for school science.
Investigate the local environment: Open Air Laboratories network
Schools across England have been putting their textbooks down and foraging outside to help protect their local environment through the Open Air Laboratories (Opal) network. Surveys are being run across the country to learn more about the state of our environment, explore the health of our soils, the quality of our air and water, the distribution of invertebrates, the importance of hedges, and the ways in which we affect our climate. Their website is bursting with brilliant ideas to suit any school and easy-to-follow instructions are provided.
Analyse Cancer Research data: Click to cure cancer
Your class can contribute to the search to find a cure to the disease using Cancer Research's interactive website Cell Slider. The resource allows the public to delve into real-life cancer data from research archives and speed up lifesaving research, outside of the laboratory.
The website presents real images of tumour samples to the world for analysis in the form of a simple game of snap. Users are guided through a tutorial that explains which cells to analyse and which ones to ignore.
Once cancer cells have been spotted by their irregular shape, users are asked to record how many have been stained yellow and how bright that yellow is by simply clicking on another image that closely matches the sample they are viewing. This information is then fed back to researchers look for trends between types of cells and a patient's response to treatment.
Mission to Mars: Planet Four
Help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of the red planet's southern polar region - an area which we know very little about.
Your students' mission, should they choose to accept it, is to find and mark 'fans' and 'blotches' on the Martian surface. Scientists believe these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking these features over the course of several Martian years to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, your class can help planetary scientists better understand our alien neighbour's climate. Scientists also hope to find out if these features form in the same spot each year and also learn how they change. Some of these remarkable images have never been seen before.
Once you've seen Mars, there are plenty of other intergalactic destinations to explore at citizen science web portal Zooniverse, including the moon, the sun and the birth of stars.
Hear whales communicate: Whale FM
Ever wondered what whales are always singing about? Are these giants of the sea engaging in philosophical debates about the size of the ocean or are they just gossiping about their latest fishy snack? Delve into the briny deep and listen to these majestic creatures communicate by taking part in project Whale FM. By categorising the haunting calls of orcas, or killer whales, into matching groups, your class will help marine researchers understand what these mysterious conversations are really about.
Environment and climate predictions: Old Weather
Go back in time and join the crew of a United States ship during the first world war to help us understand our changing weather and climate change. Set sail and ride the high seas to help scientists recover Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by US naval ships since the mid-19th century. Not only will these transcriptions help us predict our future climate, it will also help improve our knowledge of our past environment. Historians will in turn use the work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board.
There's a vast sea of nautical activities to take part in. Join a vessel, working your way up from cadet to captain or learn more about the ships' logs and the people who kept them using archives provided by the National Maritime Museum. Wherever your voyage takes you, it's a fascinating journey, beautifully bridging both the subjects of science and history.