Building Mutualistic Partnerships Between Schools and Scientists

In citizen science (CS), non-scientists take part in scientific endeavours 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. My 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. 

In the study, I support the establishment of partnerships between schools and scientists, whose goal is to advance both scientific research as well as students’ learning in the scientific and environmental domains. I work with the schools’ educational staff on building and implementing curricula that engage the students in data collection and analysis of a scientists-led research, and support both teachers and scientists in maintaining an on-going, productive communication. 

Three schools and two research groups participate in the study:

Elementary school in northern Israel – We 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 the CS website in hebrew). In continuation of this project, we have published ready-to-use learning materials available for Israeli schools that are interested in participating in the jellyfish research.

Elementary school in the center of Israel We are currently working with a team of 8 teachers on the implementation of a 4th-6th grade environmental studies program. In this program students, and in some activities, their parents, take 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 – We are currently working with 3 teachers on engaging 9th grade students in CS research, as part of their obligatory science research project. The students are conducting a local research about mammals, partnering with the same scientist as the school listed above. As in the jellyfish project, our work here included the publishing of learning materials for the benefit of other schools who wish to participate in the study.

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.

Project Members

Osnat Atias

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

From the University of Haifa:

Yael Kali

Rachel Levin Peled

Maya Benichou