How can you mobilise young people to take action for the planet?

At a time of Planetary Emergency, it’s critical for young people to not just know about science, but to be able to use it to make change in their communities, in small or large ways.

The ‘LEARN CitSci’ project explored how citizen science or community science projects can be deliberately designed to support young people to develop their sense of ‘agency’ - the capacity of individuals to act autonomously and to make their own free choices. 

Approach

By adopting the identity of a researcher in real science research projects, young people not only develop their scientific knowledge, thinking and skills, but they also have the opportunity to explore different roles, and gain an appreciation of their own expertise and contribution. This supports them to develop a sense of agency that they can use their new-found knowledge and skills to take action in meaningful ways in their own lives.

These science learning outcomes (knowledge and skills, identities, and agency) are based on the framework of Environmental Science Agency (Ballard, Dixon & Harris, 2017) and form the basis of ‘LEARN CitSci’. This five-year, collaborative research programme brings together three natural history museums and three universities to study learning outcomes for young people who take part in Community and Citizen Science projects, both outdoors and online, and to identify project design features that may enhance these learning outcomes. 

Woman and girl outside looking at nature together

Outputs and Recommendations

We have developed the Enhancing youth learning through Community and Citizen Science: A guide for practitioners to share our research findings with informal science learning practitioners. We also share insights into the research-practice partnership through our Podcasts on SoundCloud. Links to research papers and accompanying easy-read summaries, as well as other project information can be found on our legacy webpages.

We have identified some key design features that may enhance the development of science learning, identity and agency outcomes. These include:

  • explicit and consistent framing of the activity as a collective scientific endeavour, that positions young people as contributors to scientific work
  • allowing young people to use and develop mastery of scientific tools
  • providing additional support for young people to personally submit environmental data to research projects themselves (rather than group leaders doing this)
  • supporting young people to participate multiple times in a project, enabling them to try out different activities and roles, and gain confidence and skills over time
  • supporting teamwork, social interactions, and division of labour amongst a group of young people

Project information

Project Partners
LEARN CitSci was a partnership of three natural history museums who run community and citizen science programmes (Natural History Museum London, California Academy of Sciences and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County), the University of Oxford who run the Zooniverse citizen science platform, and learning researchers at two universities (UC Davis and Open University).

Project leads: Lucy Robinson (Natural History Museum London) and Prof Heidi Ballard (University of California, Davis)

Contact: Lucy Robinson l.robinson@nhm.ac.uk

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