Teachers, Students Engaging in Citizen Science

Perspectives | Dec 31, 2016

Whether in our lab, in the classroom, or out in the field, our Education team is working with students and teachers around the state to support science education. This year, teachers and staff members alike reflected on the impact of Vital Signs — our citizen science education program

Students gather in an intertidal area in different colored shirts and look at an animal a teacher laying on his stomach in a green shirt is pointing to.

Maine Teacher Reflects on Vital Signs Experience

Last year, Messalonskee Middle School teacher Amanda Ripa led an invasive species investigation with her students. Below, she reflects on her experience using Vital Signs with her class.

Amanda Ripa Vital Signs

“Using Vital Signs enhanced this investigation tremendously. This experience allowed my students to make observations and answer an authentic question in their own backyard. Together, we investigated a local population of crayfish to determine whether or not they were invasive.Through Vital Signs, we worked directly with Dr. Karen Wilson, a professor and crayfish expert from the University of Southern Maine. This opportunity to share our research in the scientific community gave our students exposure and confidence as young scientists!

Throughout the project, I watched my students become more engaged as they began to understand the importance of biodiversity to the ecosystem. They also improved their science writing, using new vocabulary to cite evidence supporting their claims. Students with artistic skills put their talents on display by drawing their observations.

This authentic, interdisciplinary learning experience allowed my students to participate as citizen scientists in the Maine learning community!” — Amanda Ripa, Messalonskee Middle School teacher

Staff Stories: Young Citizen Scientists Destined to Lead

Below, Teacher Professional Development Coordinator Molly Auclair shares her story about a special group of students from Massabesic Middle School.

Through our citizen science education program — Vital Signs — Molly engages Maine students and teachers in hands-on science experiences. These projects contribute meaningful data to research initiatives throughout the state.

Staff stories: Molly Auclair

Molly Auclair Senior Specialist, Connected Learning Ecosystem

“It’s easy to get discouraged in the face of the many challenges we observe in the Gulf of Maine and beyond. Whether it’s a warming Gulf of Maine, or the spread of invasive species throughout our watershed, I’m thinking about these challenges on a daily basis.

But some days provide the inspiration I need to press on, renewing my passion and reminding me why I do what I do. I had one of those days early last month, when I attended the Maine Woods Forever round table meeting at Unity College.

I made the trip to support and celebrate a team of 7th grade students from Massabesic Middle School. That day, they accepted the Teddy Roosevelt Maine Conservation Award, which recognizes young people and youth organizations working to conserve Maine’s forest heritage.

These students are some of the most active young citizen scientists we’ve seen participate in our Vital Signs program. As part of this program, these students chose from a variety of “Field Missions”, answered questions with data, and shared their findings with the science community online. The award recognized their contribution to the scientific community through Vital Signs and other statewide programs.

The event began with a round of introductions. From the start, it was obvious — these students will be conservation leaders in our state. Brenna, one of the students from Massabesic, introduced herself with vigor: “My name is Brenna and I am a citizen scientist from Massabesic Middle School!”

The success of this team starts with their amazing teacher, Pat Parent. Pat is a 7th grade science teacher who has been engaging his students in hands-on investigations with our citizen science education program, Vital Signs, since 2009. These kids are incredible, and so is Pat.

These students are so committed to being knowledgeable, responsible, and active stewards of Maine’s environment. Meeting them and seeing their passion up close brought happy tears to my eyes.

Even in the face of overwhelming environmental challenges, there is inspiration to be found. This day of work reminded me of that, and I left feeling optimistic and proud of the work we all do. I can’t wait to continue our work supporting the many budding citizen scientists in schools across our state.”

— Molly Auclair, Teacher Professional Development Coordinator

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