Building Mutualistic Partnerships Between Schools and Scientists

In citizen science (CS), non-scientists take part in scientific endeavors and are thus exposed to scientific knowledge, methods and ways of thinking. Meaningful engagement with CS activities can promote different aspects of science capital, a term that describes an individual’s accessibility and relatedness to science, and knowledge thereof. This highlights the potential contribution of CS to school-based learning, and lays ground towards the inclusion of students in constructed CS activities.


Such CS-based learning environments bring together students, teachers, and scientists, providing a bridge between two communities that traditionally have few opportunities for mutual engagement. This creates a fertile ground for learning by all participants. Such an environment can be perceived as a learning ecology, defined as ‘the set of contexts found in physical or virtual spaces that provide opportunities for learning’ (Barron, 2006, p. 195). I extend this definition to include interactions as an environmental component that enables learning. This study explores how the inclusion of scientists in school learning ecologies creates new learning opportunities that can ultimately lead to changes in the practices and beliefs of all participants. 

The study is part of the work done by the Taking Citizen Science to School (TCSS) initiative, an  inter-University research center that includes leading researchers from the University of Haifa and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. 

The methodology used is design-based implementation research (DBiR). In three consecutive iterations, three citizen science partnerships were established, managed and researched. The goals of each partnership were defined at their onset – to advance both scientific research as well as students’ learning in the scientific and environmental domains. Practical objectives were conceived at the partnership level, according to the interests and expectations of the scientific and educational teams involved. In each school, the researchers worked with the educational team to build and implement a set of activities that engage students in data collection and analysis of a scientist-led research. 

Three schools and two research groups participate in the study:


Elementary school in northern Israel – Researchers worked with a team of 5 school teachers on integrating a science curriculum for the 4th and 5th grades, based on a CS research about jellyfish. The jellyfish research is led by scientists from the University of Haifa (see website in hebrew). In continuation of this project, ready-to-use learning materials in hebrew were made available for Israeli schools that are interested in participating in the jellyfish research.

Elementary school in the center of Israel Researchers worked with a team of 8 teachers on the implementation of a 4th-6th grade environmental studies program. Students, and in some activities, their parents, took part in a local study of small mammals. The study is led by a scientist from the Tel-Aviv University (see related site in hebrew).










Junior high in northern Israel – Researchers worked with 3 teachers on engaging 9th grade students in CS research, as part of their obligatory science research project. The students are conducting local research about mammals, partnering with the same scientist as the school listed above. As in the jellyfish project, this work included publishing of learning materials in hebrew for the benefit of other schools.


Project Members

Osnat Atias

Prof. Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

From the University of Haifa:

Prof. Yael Kali

Maya Benichou

Dr. Rachel Levin-Peled


Atias O., Ben-David, A. (2021, January) A Citizen Science Based Curriculum Adapted for Distance Learning, The 1st Convention for Science Education in the Country’s Periphery, Online, Israel

Abstract (In Hebrew)   Presentation (PDF, In Hebrew)

Atias O., Benichou M., Sagy O., Ben-David, A., Kali Y., Baram-Tsabari A. (2020, February). “Sometimes you’re not wrong, you’re just not right”: The impact of an in-school citizen science program on students’ epistemic thinking about science, Paper presentation at the 15th Chais Conference on the Study of Innovation and Learning Technologies, Ra’anana, Israel

Abstract   Presentation (PDF, In Hebrew)

Benichou M., Atias O., Sagy O., Kali Y., Baram-Tsabari A. (2019, June). Citizen Science in Schools: Supporting Implementation of Innovative Learning Environments Using Design-Centric Research-Practice Partnerships, Poster session presented at the International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, Lyon, FR

Abstract   Poster (PDF)

Kali, Y., Sagy, O., Benichou, M., Atias, O., & Levin‐Peled, R. (2019). Teaching expertise reconsidered: The Technology, Pedagogy, Content and Space (TPeCS) knowledge framework. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(5), 2162-2177.

Atias O., Benichou M., Levin‐Peled, R., Sagy O., Baram-Tsabari A., Kali Y. (2018, October).  Building mutualistic partnerships between schools and scientists based on citizen science, Presentation presented at the Joint SIG 20 and SIG 26 Earli meeting, Jerusalem, Israel

Presentation (PDF)

Atias O., Benichou M., Levin‐Peled, R., Sagy O., Hod Y., Baram-Tsabari A., Kali Y. (2018, February).  Citizen Science in Schools: Fostering Mutualism Between Citizen Science and Science Education, Poster presented at the 13th Chais Conference for the Study of Innovation and Learning Technologies, Raanana, Israel

Poster (PDF)