“I’m really trying to encourage my students to think about their place in the world and how they can [either] make it a better place or be users and just use up what we have,” says Wearwood Elementary School science teacher Casey Berg. Casey turns to trees to help relay this message to her students.
Noelle Kramer hadn’t planned to delve into citizen science, but her students were rather persuasive. As her third and fourth graders in Dixon, California read aloud from Time for Kids, something sparked their interest. “An article on a citizen science program called The Lost Ladybug Project asked kids to become ladybug spotters in order to help scientists find a native species that had nearly disappeared,” says Noelle.
Right Side Box:
The Tale of the Lost Ladybugs
Once the state insect of New York, the nine-spotted ladybug population diminished until it all but disappeared from the radar. In fact when some youngsters spotted one of them near their Virginia home in 2006, it was the first of that species seen in the Eastern United States in 14 years! John Losey and other scientists at Cornell University figured that if lots of eyes scoured the country, they might help find more of them along with some other native lady beetles that were also disappearing. And so, the Lost Ladybug Project was born. But it wasn’t just about documenting locals. Scientists – and many homeowners – noticed that populations of other ladybugs were exploding. This included the orangey Asian lady beetle, which was introduced in this country to control pests. Have these imports excluded the native species from their habitats? This is one of the questions that scientists are exploring, thanks to a growing team of citizen scientists.
Twine from the bark of the basswood. A delicious snack from the stalk of a cattail. Red dye from the bloodroot. Lessons like these and others based on Ojibwe traditional ecological knowledge are found in Kinomaage (The Earth Shows Us the Way), a two-week intensive summer course offered by the Northern Michigan University Center for Native American Studies.
Every spring, approximately 600 children visit the bird-banding site at Fort Morgan, Alabama, a peninsula between Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, to learn how specially trained and permitted volunteers capture hummingbirds and apply teensy aluminum bands to their legs to gather data that can help researchers understand their life cycle. Some of the children even get to hold a hummer in their hands before it flies away.
Mount Makalu in the background. Banana tree in the foreground. Photo: TMIAfter weeks of planning and preparation, your expedition is finally going to begin. First you land in Kathmandu, Nepal. You've planned to spend two days here, gathering together the rest of your gear and paying for a climbing permit. It's a bit disappointing that you are unable to see the mountains from the city. On some days, people can. On other days, like today, they are hidden behind air pollution.
The first step in rain garden design is scouting an appropriate site. This activity challenges students to explore one aspect of this process: soil drainage assessment. (For full background information about the purpose of rain gardens and basic design principles, please read Rain Gardens to the Rescue.)
Ask gardeners about homegrown pest control and you'll get a slew of creative responses: beer-filled dishes to attract slugs, a spray of juiced bugs to deter insect relatives, marigolds planted to repel nematodes, and so on. Will these strategies work in your school garden? Which are most effective for which pests? What is the scientific explanation, if any, for the effectiveness of each approach? Might any techniques be harmful to plants or beneficial insects? Such questions are rife with possibilities for student inquiry.