Wednesday, October 26, 2016

For Immediate Release

Teachers Engage in Citizen Science with MITS and Brandeis

Thirteen Massachusetts teachers, ranging from grades one to twelve, gathered on the Brandeis University campus on Saturday, October 15th. dscn6208The group convened for a hybrid course, Citizen Science for Classroom Teachers, created through a collaboration of Brandeis University and the Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS). Although this was the participants’ first face-to-face meeting, they had already had opportunities to converse with each other online, defining what it means to conduct “citizen science” and collecting ideas for how to engage their own students in citizen science projects.

On-site, participants had the opportunity to explore the Brandeis campus during a “BioBlitz”. In this activity teachers joined an experienced data collection community to identify flora and fauna in the small area. They chased butterflies, searched for unique plants, and spotted hidden birds, making sure to photo document each specimen. These photos were then uploaded and shared with the world via the iNaturalist app. Contributors, specialists and amateur naturalists around the world will now be able to help confirm the teachers’ identifications.

Teachers also took a mini-field trip around the campus that included fantastic views of fall foliage. Participants made qualitativedscn6210 and quantitative observations  about the timing of leaf color change and leaf drop for Red Maple trees (Acer rubrum). These observations play a part in Brandeis Professor Colleen Hitchcock’s Ecology course, where undergraduates monitor campus trees and contribute to long-term data collection as part of the National Phenology Network. Participants also considered how they could apply Science and Engineering Practices, in particular Practice 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, to citizen science projects like these.

The final component of the course included planning time, and teachers took home ideas for incorporating citizen science projects like Celebrate Urban Birds and Journey North into their classroom curriculum. Brandeis’s Elementary Education Faculty Leader Rachel Theodorou led a conversation which centered around the Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Learning Standards. She identified the many connections that could be made to citizen science projects and encouraged teachers to advocate for their students’ need to be involved in active, relevant, and meaningful science.


The Museum Institute for Teaching Science specializes in providing hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based STEM professional development for formal and informal educators.  For more information, visit or call 617-328-1515.