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Investigating Evidence

We’ve designed this self-paced course to help educators explore the process of inquiry and scientific investigation, especially as inspired by outdoor observations and citizen-science participation. Our popular Investigating Evidence curriculum is the “textbook” for the course.

You can purchase the course with printed curricula/handouts or opt for the electronic version that you can download and/or print yourself. Feel free to explore Investigating Evidence at You can also elect to earn two optional Continuing Education Units (CEUs) if you successfully complete the course. All online materials will be available to you for six months following your enrollment.

Just because the course is completed on your own time doesn’t mean it isn’t interactive. Throughout the course, you’ll hear from teachers who have successfully used citizen science with students. You’ll also participate in discussion boards and learn from other educators and Cornell Lab facilitators who came before you in the course. We’ll encourage you to get outside and explore, think about applications for and implementation in your own program or classroom. Finally, quizzes and assignments will help you test your knowledge and understanding. Below is a sample video that can be found in the course.

Course Syllabus

There are six lessons in this course, each divided into a number of “topics.” The activities and readings within the topics will develop your concept of inquiry, explore citizen science as a tool to foster youth investigations, and give you new resources to use in your classroom or program. Below are the learning objectives for each lesson.

Lesson 1: Inquiry through Citizen Science

You will be able to…

  1. Define “citizen science” accurately in your own words.
  2. Define “inquiry” accurately in your own words.
  3. Explain reasons educators use citizen science and inquiry in their teaching/programs.
  4. Describe how citizen science and inquiry are related.

Lesson 2: Observe and Wonder

You will be able to…

  1. Describe three ways to foster observations.
  2. Distinguish between open-ended and closed-ended questions.
  3. Differentiate between questions that can be answered through reference materials, data exploration, observational study, and experimentation.

Lesson 3: Creating and Supporting Investigations

You will be able to…

  1. Distinguish the difference between a hypothesis and a prediction.
  2. Guide students through writing a testable hypothesis.
  3. Identify independent and dependent variables.
  4. Define variables within an experimental study.

Lesson 4: Show Me the Data

You will be able to…

  1. Correctly identify and describe four commonly-used kinds of graphs.
  2. Determine which type of graph is best suited to display various types of data.
  3. Describe common mistakes when graphing data.

Lesson 5: Assessing and Sharing Inquiry

You will be able to…

  1. Identify challenges and potential solutions for teaching inquiry in the classroom
  2. Use a rubric to evaluate a scientific report.
  3. Describe four ways to share student investigations.

Lesson 6: Conclusions

You will be able to…

  1. Develop a personalized implementation plan for your educational setting around inquiry and citizen science.

Sign up for Integrating Inquiry for Educators: Developing Student Science Practices today!

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Satisfaction Guarantee

Our educators and birding experts take pride in the courses they create. If you're not satisfied with the material for ANY reason, contact us within 30 days of the start of the course or purchase for a full refund.

Meet the Course Instructors


Jennifer Fee, Manager of K-12 Programs

I was hired by the Cornell Lab in 2004 to develop and field test the BirdSleuth curriculum, so I’ve been with the program since its beginning. I love sharing citizen science with teachers, particularly through online and in person professional development workshops. Prior to joining the Cornell Lab, I worked in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Education Program. I hold a B.S. (Biology) from Truman State University and M.S. (Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics) from Illinois State University. I enjoy the outdoors – especially camping, biking, and hiking – and I love traveling and discovering new places!



Lindsay Glasner, K-12 Outreach Coordinator

I graduated from Cornell University in Spring 2014 with a degree in Natural Resources and Marine Biology with a focus in Environmental Education. My past experience includes leading youth and adults through stream ecology and water conservation, and research in freshwater microbiology. I’ve been working with the BirdSleuth K-12 program since 2012 managing the BirdSleuth Ambassador Program. Though my background is in the marine sciences, I’ve caught the birding bug while working here and have grown to love and appreciate birds and citizen science as an educational tool!



Kelly Schaeffer, K-12 Education Specialist

I graduated from the University of Delaware with degrees in Wildlife Conservation and Entomology. While at UD, I discovered the world of avian research and fell in love with chasing birds around the woods. I spent a few years traveling and working as a field research technician which inspired me to pursue a career in Environmental Education. I went back to school and obtained my MS from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in Environmental Education. I am thrilled to begin work with the Cornell Lab on the BirdSleuth team to help students connect to birds and nature through scientific exploration.

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