I’m a PhD student jointly supervised by Prof. Ayelet Baram-Tsabari from the Technion, and Prof. Yael Kali from the University of Haifa. My thesis focuses on Citizen Science – a field of practice that is experiencing a major boost in recent years, in which anyone can actively take part in scientific research and help advance science in various disciplinary domains. Citizen science is a form of public engagement with science that bridges between scientists and nonscientists and supports the democratization of scientific data and knowledge. I’m interested in the inter-relationships between citizen science, science communication and science education.
I’ve completed a double major B.A. in Biology and Computer Sciences at the Tel-Aviv university. Following my appreciation to both areas of interest, I studied for an M.Sc. degree in the Plant Sciences department at Tel-Aviv University, researching bioinformatic methods for analyzing genomic data of a small, yet highly important plant, called Arabidopsis.
After a few years of undertaking several occupations, including teaching science at middle-school and working as a commercial site manager, I’ve found myself fascinated by the promise of citizen science as a field of practice and research. In my thesis I examine models for integrating citizen science with school-level science education, providing for a more authentic, context-based and empowering learning experience.
My Research – 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 to science, knowledge thereof, and dispositions about science. This highlights the potential contribution of CS to school-based science education, and lays ground towards the inclusion of students in constructed CS activities.
Such CS-based learning environments bring together students, scientists, and teachers, providing a fertile ground for learning by each of these participants. We perceive such an environment 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). Nonetheless, fostering mutual learning in such a diverse setting, comprised of distinct cultural communities, is a challenge.
This study aims to explore what types of learning may occur in such CS-based learning ecologies, and what makes them mutualistic – bringing benefits to all related parties. To this end, we support the establishment of partnerships between schools and scientists, whose goal is to enhance both scientific research as well as students’ scientific and environmental education. As educational experts, we work with the schools’ educational staff on building and implementing learning environments that engage the students in data collection and analysis of a scientists-led research. We also support both teachers and scientists in maintaining on-going, productive communication.
Three schools and two research groups participate in our 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. As part of the program, students take part in a local study of small mammals, 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.
Using ethnographic methods and questionnaires, the three case studies help us examine the conditions which make these partnerships possible, and the effects they have on the students, teachers and scientists. We hope this study will contribute to the growing body of knowledge about CS-mediated learning and attitudes towards science, as well as provide guidelines for implementing CS-based curricula in schools.
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.
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.
Singer, R., Atar, S., Atias, O., Oron, E., Segal, D., Hirsch, J. A., Tuller, T., Orian, A., Chamovitz, D. A. (2014). Drosophila COP9 signalosome subunit 7 interacts with multiple genomic loci to regulate development. Nucleic Acids Research, 42(15), 9761–9770.
Atias, O., Chor, B., & Chamovitz, D. A. (2009). Large-scale analysis of Arabidopsis transcription reveals a basal co-regulation network. BMC Systems Biology, 3, 86.
Sagy, O., Golumbic, Y.N., Abramsky, H.B.H., Benichou, M., Atias, O., Braham, H.M., Baram-Tsabari, A., Kali, Y., Ben-Zvi, D., Hod, Y. and Angel, D. (2019). Citizen science: An opportunity for learning in the networked society. In Learning In a Networked Society (pp. 97-115). Springer, Cham.
Lorke, J., Golumbic, Y.N., Ramjan, C., and Atias, O., (2019):Training needs and recommendations for Citizen Science participants, facilitators and designers. COST Action 15212 report.
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
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
Sagy O., Atias O., Benichou M., Levin‐Peled, R., Baram-Tsabari A., Hod Y., Kali Y. (2018, April). Citizen Science as a Future Learning Space (CS-FLS) in Schools, Poster session presented at the AERA Annual Meeting, New York City, NY
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