The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Virtual Educator Retreat: Inspiring Investigations through Citizen Science Virtual Educator Retreat: Symbiosis in the Soil – Classroom Case Study

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    • Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Bird_Academy
      Share your thoughts about participating in citizen science in the discussion below. Please address:
      • What citizen-science project did you do?
      • What challenges, if any, did you experience?
      • What learning outcomes might you expect from having your students participate in this project?
      You must be enrolled in the course to reply to this topic.
    • Kimberly
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      kmichellehowell
      I participated in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project because my school does work with monarch butterflies and it carries on the work of our STEM-AG teacher who recently passed. I was able to go to the butterfly garden we have established at a local park and look for eggs and larva. It was raining on the day I went, so I only found a few eggs and one larva. Possible learning outcomes include: life cycle of the butterfly, eating habits (time of day, how many flowers in an area), length of time between laying of the eggs and seeing butterflies, and which animals prey on the larva. Students could even design a way to help protect the larva from predators.
    • Ashley
      Participant
      Chirps: 23
      ABloch01
      I picked Globe and examined several data sets.  I noticed that some data sets had a great deal of data collected and some sets didn't have that much.  I think if I set up some parameters for my students, I could have develop some great conclusions that really connect to the concepts that we are covering in class.
    • Elandriel
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      elandriellewis
      I identified some birds with Merlin and have started exploring eBird and really like it so far.  I think both of these could be useful for my teachers to use in the classroom.  I think it will provide a unique support for teachers who feel uncertain of their own skills around birds, and also provide opportunities for starting to explore data.  I actually had the opportunity to introduce these apps to a park ranger at a state park here in TN.  She was super excited to learn about them and use them in her programs.
    • Amy
      Participant
      Chirps: 26
      AmySenn
      Since the start of this course I have used Seek to identify plants and animals with my grandchildren.  Sometimes the identifications were very specific and sometimes pretty vague.  One of the challenges was getting a good photo- especially with any animal.  It was helpful to look at what we might expect to encounter in our area and look for those species.  I think that all of us got better at observing and identifying common organisms around us.  In particular- I am trying separate the "good weeds", ones that are native and supportive of bird and insect diversity, from the invasive plants that I am trying to get rid of.
    • Jenny
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      jambud
      I have participated in project feeder watch one season but was unable to complete the counting throughout the entire time frame. I also participate in contributing to eBird on monthly bird walks. Committing to a project that you do with other people keeps me more motivated! I don't always see this as true for students. When group projects work well, then yes, there can be lots of motivation. However, when we have our students create their projects on their own I see so much commitment and love of their own ideas. If students participated in eBird data collection, I think we would need to be careful in setting the time commitment/ duration of the project. I greatly benefitted from learning to bird alongside experts, and I think similarly there would be a lot to gain by students working along with someone more experienced at least for the first while. I would expect that by participating in eBird data collection, students would be able to identify at least three (making a conservative goal) local birds, be able to record and upload data accurately, be able to identify ways in which birds are identified, be able to develop scientific questions relating to bird behaviour, biology, and interactions with their environment.
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      mgerhardt
      I have done loon watch, backyard bird count, collected dna water samples for invasive fish species, monarch tagging. Often the most challenging part is the timing, many projectx need to happen certain times of the year or day, that may not coincide with your school or groups schedule. Learning outcomes have varied by project and group involved, but always observing, data collecting and communicating those discoveries are involved.
      • Kimberly
        Participant
        Chirps: 19
        kmichellehowell
        Mary, I am getting ready to start Project Feeder Watch with a group of students and am concerned about some of the things you mentioned.
    • Todd
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      CoreCyclones
      My science class geared towards high-needs learning participated in citizen science through the eBird application. The challenges I experienced were more along the lines of the inexperience of the group of students I had, as well as their ability to draw inferences from their observations. The learning outcomes I expected from having my students participate in this project were pretty widespread due to the widespread cognitive dissonance I had among the student in the class. Differentiated instruction was a useful tool in this case.
    • Lori
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      MPBirding
      I was really interested in trying iNaturalist, but based on our conversations thought I should also try Seek by iNaturalist. The app was really easy to use and I think this could be a great tool to help students begin to make observations about our school campus as well as their backyards. One challenge I experienced was trying to get a good enough picture to be able to identify the plants in my backyard. I think if students were given enough time to practice this could be a very useful app for students to use throughout the year. I could see myself incorporating this app into my observation lessons as well as my ecology unit. The information shared with students would be wonderful to begin to make comparisons between different ecosystems as well as become aware of what grows in theirs and begin to ask the question of why.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      binouser
      A challenge I have is getting outside in the summer. The high temperatures and the bad air quality make it difficult to go to the nearby refuges to have a prospect of seeing more birds.   It is a good reminder to prepare a backup assignment if I have an outside activity planned. Students will learn flexibility.
      • Amy
        Participant
        Chirps: 26
        AmySenn
        Thanks for the reminder about being flexible and having a back up.  That always helps even if it is for an individual student that needs something different!
    • David
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      lumpydave84
      I used iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/88292535).  I have been a long time eBirder and I have been using iNaturalist off and on for more than a year. I wanted to start documenting and learning more about pollinators, bees in particular.  One challenge for sure is getting a perfect picture.  Another challenge is not knowing which angles or field marks you really need while you are in the heat of the moment.  I found myself agonizing about the exact species ID (I do not like to leave it to a taxon).  It is still fun and I ended up doing a dragonfly submission for sure (the link above).  A female Blue Dasher posed nicely for an extended period of time.  I will need to sharpen my own ID skills for common bees before starting with students. I want my students to learn about the connections in nature and go down the rabbithole that is the diversity of life.  Why so many species? What does each species need?  Where do the bees go at night?
      • Todd
        Participant
        Chirps: 18
        CoreCyclones
        I like how you use scaffolded-questioning to lead your students with guided-inquiry.
    • Martha
      Participant
      Chirps: 23
      Martha gardenbird
      I participated in ebird from my own neighborhood as it is too hot to drive downtown to my school (and there is too much construction this summer there too). Question (not really a challenge): do I make a new ebird account for use with my students at school? I want the kids to take turns entering our data, but I don't really want them on my personal account. What have other folks done here?   Learning Outcomes: students should be able to identify(by sight and/or song) a handful of urban birds (house finches, crows, chickadees, rock doves, Northern Flicker, and possibly more...) by the end of the year ; students will gain experience in data collection and recording; students should also be able to discuss data bias (with ebird the bias lies in multiple collections from hot spots and very few from Urban settings....)
    • Darlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      DarleneKehn
      I participate in eBird to help improve my student and I's observation skills.  Seeing is one thing, but using our ears, especially in summer after the leaf out is even more challenging, (but rewarding.) I recently went on a bird walk and the leader of the tour told us not to call out the bird we think we hear, but take our time and listen to everything.  From there, we started to pinpoint certain birds, and even saw some.  Later on while on the the tour, it was very rewarding to apply my new listening skills.  The challenge for me is that I want to know what bird it is so bad!  Instead of being hasty, I took my time and was patient. I also discussed what I was hearing with others and we were able to learn together.  I hope I can provide a similar experience in the fall with my students.  I think they will learn that it is okay to not know the answer right away and it can also be beneficial to work in a team to discuss observations and form conclusions.
    • Rachel
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      restendahl
      I completed a fish seine July 15th, to collect data on forage fish populations in partnership with a local nature center. The nature center takes out groups all the time to do these fish seines and collect data. I work with adjudicated youth so they are in the program year around, so I was able to do this with 3 students and 4 staff. The students thought it was interesting and fun and learned how to use an identification guide and how to use measure fish in addition to why forage fish are so important. The water and mucky beach were a bit of a challenge but we had waders for all the students. Another challenge was lack of fish. I have done this activity awhile ago and we caught 36 fish and this time we only caught 7 (doing it twice). We are hypothesizing that many fish died during the huge unprecedented heat wave at the end of June.
    • Russell
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      rfriedman1212
      I participated in the BioBlitz, specifically utilizing the INaturalist app, by submitting photos of a snake and lizard. During my lunchbreak at work I went outside and did a bit of exploring in the natural spaces by our building. Even just spending 30 minutes outside I witnessed a whole world of natural wonders. I observed a ground squirrel resting on a rock right below a Garter Snake which I though was risky. I then started to ask myself if both animals knew that they were no threat to one another as the squirrel was certainly too large for the snake. My biggest challenge was unfortunately accessing the technology as the cell service at my place of work isn't ideal. Having my learners participate in this would certainly open their minds to the wildlife in their backyard. Hopefully they'd observe some ecological relationships between animals and maybe even some surprising interactions like I witnessed. They may discover species that they didn't even realize were out in this space which could lead them to asking further questions about the ecology of the location.
    • April
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      AprilWhitehead
      I participate in iNaturalist by posting observations of nocturnal animals around my home. I have been challenged to take clear photographs. I think students could learn from the "Seek" version of the app by comparing the suggested results to different lighting conditions, zoom levels, etc.
      • Maria (Dede)
        Participant
        Chirps: 74
        dpander37
        Wow!  Taking pictures at night is a challenge.
    • Sue
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      SueWatts
      moth1 I submitted this photo to Project Noah as part of National Moth Week (July 17-25)..
      • Sue
        Participant
        Chirps: 14
        SueWatts
        This was identified in a day by an expert as a Tobacco Budworm Moth which can open up a world of possibilities regarding teaching.  The identification linked me to a distribution map for this moth, and to a world of information about moths in general. The Project Noah entry connected me to moth watchers all over the world. Engaging with the website helped me gain more confidence.
      • David
        Participant
        Chirps: 18
        lumpydave84

        @Sue During quarantine I started going down the moth ID rabbit hole using iNaturalist... there are THOUSANDS of species to learn about.  It is a deep deep well to get interested in but I have started dipping my toe!

      • Elandriel
        Participant
        Chirps: 21
        elandriellewis
        That's a super fun idea.  We've been talking a bit about moths at home lately, I'm going to check that out.
    • Shelley
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Shelley_Metcalf
      I made and submitted an observation to Project Squirrel. Owing to the large number of oak, maple and pine trees, there are a large number of squirrels in the backyard. It's not hard to observe them, but the time of day when they're the most active might factor into getting the best observations and be challenging based on our schedule. We know they eat acorns and have been watching them for awhile from last fall through this summer (find, bury, dig, eat.)  However, we weren't sure about other things they eat and have been fascinated this summer to learn that they eat the seeds from the numerous immature green pine cones.  So already, this has gotten us curious about the various types of foods that squirrels eat. I would expect that if we continue to make observations for Project Squirrel we would become more skilled observers, learn various methods of recording data, practice reading and analyzing data  and maps from others' observations, make charts or graphs and perhaps come up with our own experimental design to find out answers for any questions that we're wondering and need more data than just simple observations.
      • Maria (Dede)
        Participant
        Chirps: 74
        dpander37
        I am also interested in squirrels and their local diet.
      • Elandriel
        Participant
        Chirps: 21
        elandriellewis
        I want to explore project squirrel as well, we have many in our backyard.
    • Linda
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      Sci8Lilly
      I have participated in NestWatch for the last several years.  I have several different nest boxes on my property as well as a variety of nests to be found.  The biggest challenge I have is accurately collecting data from the nest boxes.  I have an endoscope camera that I insert into the nest boxes to make observations, but I am still trying to master this skill.  It is much easier to make observations of a nest that is open but finding them is also a challenge.  We are not in school when most of our local song birds start nesting but I introduce them to the many bird cams of larger birds that nest much earlier and broadcast continuously.  I attached a picture of the robin's nest that was built on a motion light of the garage last summer.  I had a great view of it from the deck and loved watching them fledge. IMG_3774
      • Stephanie
        Participant
        Chirps: 33
        stephertan
        We have so many bird nests at my house, this sounds like a great summer project for my son and me. He has loved going outside and using the bird song identifier on Merlin. I am curious how this will work in my classroom with the chromebooks instead of handheld devices.
      • Laura
        Participant
        Chirps: 21
        Laura Schofield
        Great photo! This year was my first year monitoring a nest. I had installed a bluebird nest box because we had a family of bluebirds nest over the past 2 winters, I am in Massachusetts.  The bluebirds used the nest box to raise 2 broods this year. But it also got me to thinking, I haven't really seen other nests, even though I have hummingbirds, cardinals, robins, catbirds and finches in my yard on a daily basis. I need to do some more research on where, when and how these species of birds make their nests.
    • Bridget
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      BridgetL
      I am planning on participating in Budburst with my students once school is back in session.  I have participated in Feeder Watch in the past, and ended up being able to complete a Nest Watch by accident!  The biggest challenge with Feeder Watch for my students was the time limit set up to watch the feeder (from the classroom window).  I organized the day so that teams of students (two) would watch for 10 minutes a day.  When the timer went off they came up with just about every excuse in the book to keep watching! For the Nest Watch, I have grapes growing on an arbor in my backyard.  I went out to prune the plant and discovered a robin had set up home!  It was great to be able to see her each morning, but I was not able to look inside the nest.  Her placement made it impossible to obtain a vantage point without climbing a ladder (an no-no as a recover from knee surgery!) I could see the students launching into discussions regarding the relatively short time the eggs are in the nest before the chicks emerge.  As a class we watched an eagle nest (web cam) every day and had the amazing experience of watching one of the eaglets break free from his/her shell!  We stopped what we were doing and just watched, then erupted with great cheer!  The students were fascinated (and quite worried!) that the mom and dad eagles were not at the nest 24/7 and that they didn't spend years with the baby eagles.  It led to a great discussion of how different species require different and varied amounts of care to reach a level of independence.
      • Stephanie
        Participant
        Chirps: 33
        stephertan
        I was wondering about how feeder watch would work in a classroom. Can you share any other challenges, insights you might have?
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Laura Schofield
      I choose Budburst. My 6th graders currently participate in the Harvard Forest Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Citizen Science Project, but as the facilitator, have participated in multiple professional development around protocols and data collection. I am currently rewriting our ecology unit to be more inquiry and phenomena based for our district which includes 10 middle schools and most of the science teachers also teach math and math intervention. I wanted to see if the Budburst app would meet the same goals as the Harvard Forest as far as inquiry, but with an easier platform for teachers who will have minimal time for professional development. I found the app quite user friendly, you can also upload photos from a computer. This is a benefit because less than 50% of my students have smartphones, but they all now have Chromebooks. Would have to help students identify different phenophases so data is consistent..
      • Kristin
        Participant
        Chirps: 28
        KristinBlack829
        I'm also interested in doing Budburst. I'm thinking I will keep it simple by having students do observations in groups and limiting our observations to deciduous trees and wildflowers, which I think would be easiest for them to identify. It will make learning the phenophases a bit easier.
    • Kate
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Mrs Studey
      I am currently participating in a citizen science project through iNaturalist called "Metro Phoenix Ecoflora". Every month, we have a different focus, and this month we are focusing on the non-native oleanders found throughout the Phoenix area. One of the challenges I'm having is remembering to take pictures whenever I do see oleanders. They are a very common plant used for landscaping, but I'm usually distracted doing other things when I'm out and about running errands. I really need to take some time to focus on the project and be very intentional about going out and finding these plants. With it being July in Phoenix, it is not the most ideal time for walking around the neighborhood either! I have to tell myself that having at least a few observations is better than not having any at all. Every piece of data collected is still important. If I did this project with my students, one major learning outcome would be understanding more about oleanders and how they are not the best plant for local wildlife. I think they would also become aware of how common these plants are. Hopefully, if they have oleanders at home, they might also consider encouraging their parents to replace oleanders with more wildlife friendly plants. This could also open up more questions about native and non-native plants and their impact on local wildlife.
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      pricenj
      I participated in e-bird.   The biggest challenge is figuring out if you are seeing the same birds over and over during the bird count.  The little brown birds are particularly difficult to identify and differentiate.  I think students could learn to identify birds by very close observation and learning the difference between birds that look similar.  Or they could learn to identify them by their calls or the way they eat.
      • Ashley
        Participant
        Chirps: 23
        ABloch01
        I want to try e-bird with my students this year too. I think you bring up a great point about being able differentiate between birds and making sure not to double count the birds!
    • Kristin
      Participant
      Chirps: 28
      KristinBlack829
      I downloaded the Budburst app and made some observations over the last week. The biggest challenge is identifying the phenophase for the different types of plants. Flower anatomy is not my strongest area, and I found myself being very unsure identifying the seeds on most flowers or determining if a leaf was fully unfolded or not. Luckily, Budburst has some lesson plans and activities on their website, which I found helpful. I can definitely see myself doing something like this with my students, using the printable datasheets you can download from the Budburst website. I would probably have them work in groups for this so they can discuss their observations and phenophase "decisions." I created a group within Budburst that will allow my students to upload data later. The student accounts do not require an email address or any personal information, just a username. This seems like a great, safe option for my 7th graders. My learning outcomes would hopefully be developing detailed observation skills, collaborating and communicating as a group, learning to recognize different phases of plant life cycles, and explaining how this data can be used to measure the effects of climate change and why we are collecting it.
    • Pam
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      pkevans
      I took rain gauge measurements for CoCoRaHS. My challenge is to remember to take the measurements each day and at around the same time. It is something that takes a while to get into the habit of doing. I am wanting my students to start this as part of a climate study I want to start for our school. We are also going to do some GLOBE protocols as well. I want students to be able to look back at data from our school to see how things are changing such as temperature, sunrise, sunset, leaves on trees, etc. I know we can't do it all, but I want them to start noticing these things and to know how to look back and see what happened in the past. I also monitor bats as they emerge from their roost during the warmer months for a local preserve. It is amazing to do this!!  
      • Kate
        Participant
        Chirps: 19
        Mrs Studey
        I would agree that remembering to take measurements each day for CoCoRaHS is very hard. I'm also hoping to get help from my students on this project next year.
      • Darlene
        Participant
        Chirps: 19
        DarleneKehn
        I love that you are using the CoCoRaHS data for a school climate study.  Youth are very interested in climate change and having this data will make them even more invested in climate action in their community.  Great job!
    • Catia
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      catiawolff
      I have not done any of the projects yet.  It is helpful reading about the projects from the other participants.  I anticipate either having students participate in bird watching and recording frequency of activity as it relates to various bird seeds available.
    • Lauren
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      laurenscull
      - What citizen-science project did you do? Previously, I did Frog Watch. This project includes going out to areas with frogs and toads, listening for calls, and keeping track of numbers. - What challenges, if any, did you experience? Sometimes, you could show up to a location and find nothing! - What learning outcomes might you expect from having your students participate in this project? Even you set up a project just right, you may have unexpected outcomes. This project also helps students get better at scientific observation and collecting data.
    • Stephanie
      Participant
      Chirps: 33
      stephertan
      I haven't worked with a citizen science activity with my students but I have plans to do so once school starts again next month. I am planning to work on Project Feeder Watch with my students. I anticipate we may have challenges with motivation with a few of my students and that we may run into logistical issues with getting outside in the winter but I don't think either of these challenges will be prohibitive. Expected learning outcomes from this project are that the students will gain a greater appreciation of the birds in our area, that their knowledge of birds in our area will grow, and that they will hone their observation and inferencing skills. I also expect their idea of what a scientist looks like and how they can contribute to science will change to include themselves in the picture.
      • Austin
        Participant
        Chirps: 17
        austinkennedy612
        Motivation is always a hard thing to instill and it can take a while, but boy is it worth it to see the kids invested! Once they know a few birds they will feel more empowered and that will help build motivation to keep learning!
      • Stephanie
        Participant
        Chirps: 33
        stephertan

        @Austin I hope so! My groups meet only once a week so I'm thinking I'll need a "report board" for all of the off-class bird sightings they'll want to tell me about. I can see that taking up A LOT of class time! :)

    • Austin
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      austinkennedy612
      What citizen-science project did you do? We started collecting monarch butterfly caterpillars and eggs to raise and release. There are a few sites that take this information so we have a few students using different ones. What challenges, if any, did you experience? So far our only challenge has been how to get the most kids invested. Even though we have the same students all summer, each day we have different students so it's been a challenge to allow them all the same 'first experience' with collecting and observing as we can only handle so many on sight. We have followed up each day on locations, status, size, stage, etc. but the most excited kids were the ones who made the initial discovery, not the ones who are following up on another students finding. What learning outcomes might you expect from having your students participate in this project? We hope the students will learn the basics of monarchs and their life stages. We hope they learn the important of milkweed in our area and will help protect the plants to directly help protect the species. We want them to learn the unique relationship that monarchs have created with milkweed and we want them to just enjoy and have fun with nature!
    • Maria (Dede)
      Participant
      Chirps: 74
      dpander37
      I am working on Project Squirrel.  It is challenging right now to spend a great deal of time outside, as the temperature and humidity is extremely high.  The mosquitoes are also out in high numbers, so it is very challenging to be outside for long.  I expect that students would learn to observe, record data, take photographs, keep track of dates and times, create graphs, observe patterns, learn different kinds of squirrels such as the grey squirrel versus the fox squirrel, and ask questions about trends in squirrel  populations.
      • Pam
        Participant
        Chirps: 31
        pkevans
        That one does look interesting! We have tons of them, but they are all the same kind.
      • Jon Javier
        Participant
        Chirps: 17
        jagjavier
        Thank you Maria for bringing up the citizen science project. Will explore on Project Squirrel and see the possibility of adapting the protocol of collecting data in the environment and habitat in the school I am teaching (Philippine Science High School - Main, Quezon City, Philippines). The invasive tree squirrel Callosciurus finlaysonii has proliferated in the 17 acre campus ground (actually already a concern in the Metropolitan Area and adjacent provinces). I think this will be a very interesting research to document how the species have adapted in the local habitat, establish the population, and determine its effect on the local wildlife (especially on the population of wild birds in the school). Callosciurus finlaysonii
      • Maria (Dede)
        Participant
        Chirps: 74
        dpander37

        @Jon Javier This is a great squirrel photo.  Finding out how their populations affect other populations of different species in the area is interesting.

      • Bridget
        Participant
        Chirps: 31
        BridgetL
        This sounds like an amazing project!  I am definitely going to have to check it out as I know the students will embrace it.  We had a squirrel visit our bird feeder on such a regular basis the students even named him!
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