Taking Citizen Science to School
Breaking Boundaries Between School and Society
A century ago, John Dewey pointed out that connecting school and society is the essence of meaningful learning. In the context of the 21st century networked society, new and exciting opportunities to use technologies such as Web 2.0, social networked platforms, mobile phones, web communities, and the internet-of-things provide the opportunity to fulfill a cutting edge version of Dewey’s vision. Taking Citizen Science to School capitalizes on affordances of the networked society to break boundaries between traditional silos — students, citizens, and scientists; formal and informal learning; science and data literacies; classrooms and out-of-school environments; physical and online spaces; educational researchers and practitioners; science and science-education. Specifically, by engaging students within citizen science projects, this initiative aims to elucidate how breaking boundaries between traditional silos fosters meaningful STEM learning.
Taking Citizen Science to School is guided by three mutually-enriching goals. These include: (a) developing and substantiating a conceptual framework of meaningful STEM learning through student engagement in citizen science; (b) engaging middle and high school students in real and ongoing scientific endeavors through technology-enhanced learning environments co-designed by a network of research-practice partnerships that build school capacity for sustaining the innovation; and (c) generating principled practical knowledge that will guide policy and scale-up the innovation within the highly diverse Israeli educational system.
Inspired by the notion of the change laboratory, the Taking Citizen Science to School research center offers an implementation strategy that engages schools from Israel’s diverse socioeconomic sectors in citizen science. The heart of the strategy involves instructional models that schools choose and tailor based on their local affordances and constraints, a collaborative design process within research-practice partnerships, and our design-based implementation research (DBIR) approach. We will cultivate a network of research-practice partnerships that target secondary school STEM education (with a focus on grades 7-10) from about 45 schools in the northern geographical and/or social periphery of Israel. Cross-fertilization of insights and best practices within this network will be supported by an interactive, online Design Principles Database to provide participants with the means to share, critique, negotiate and synthesize lessons learned from the various implementations. The negotiation and generation of principled practical knowledge will enable continual improvement of practice as well as theory related to breaking boundaries to foster meaningful STEM learning through citizen science. Given the salient fields from which our group of researchers emanate — science education, statistics education, science communication, technology-enhanced learning, and future learning spaces — we expect to generate the critical mass to effectuate the paradigm shift in STEM education towards cultivating future citizens who, using their enhanced science capital, can knowledgeably take part in democratic decision-making processes and take advantage of the full spectrum of employment opportunities.