Dunes Learning Center takes citizen science online

Dunes Learning Center takes citizen science online
By: Dunes Learning Center Last Updated: May 19, 2020

Dunes Learning Center has transitioned its noteworthy Citizen Science Symposium event online in order to keep a promise to all of the middle school citizen scientists that took part in this year’s program.

Over the winter, more than 375 students from Lake and Porter counties joined Dunes Learning Center in learning about Citizen Science projects – research projects that rely on data collected by the general public. With their classes, students began collecting data to contribute to local science efforts like Project Squirrel and Hoosier Riverwatch.

Last years program provided a platform for a variety of local experts and scientists to talk about the impact citizen scientists have in their own environments. As a result of schools being restricted to eLearning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Dunes Learning Center has transitioned this year’s event to an online platform.

man holding spider

“Last year students were able to attend sessions of their choice hosted by local experts and scientists in a variety of fields that related to their projects, experience a keynote luncheon and then share their own works with other students,” said Alisha Zick, Dunes Learning Center outreach education manager. “We have recreated the key elements of this event through our Virtual Citizen Science Symposium.”

The new online event hosts a collection of videos from local mycologists, arborists, Indiana Dunes National Park rangers and Field Museum entomologists. Students can ask questions, present their own findings and engage with other students on the program’s forum page.

“I get to see people learn that they have the power to contribute real data that influences the outcomes of their daily lives,” said Zick. “It can be a life-changing experience for a student to find a new passion, motivation and confidence in themselves through actual scientific research. They begin viewing themselves as a part of a larger, professional community.”

Teachers from Lake and Porter counties have begun incorporating the digital learning event into their students’ eLearning assignments.

“Dunes Learning Center has been very helpful with creating valuable experiences for my students,” said Jill Roser, Science teacher at Discovery Charter School. “I know this year did not go the way any of us planned, but I appreciate their continued efforts to bring science content to us. I know my students will enjoy this program much more than the chapter test I had originally planned.”

Information and access to the event can be found at DunesLearningCenter.org/citizen-science.

“I hope this digital event will continue to inspire interest and curiosity toward the scientific field for the students who are a part of the program,” said Zick. “I hope that they share this outlook and resource with their friends and families so that we can motivate more people to get involved and inspired in the natural world around them.”

The 2020 virtual Citizen Science Symposium is funded by the NiSource Charitable Foundation through a NIPSCO Environmental Action Grant.

Dunes Learning Center is a non-profit residential environmental education center and camp devoted to inspiring lasting curiosity and stewardship with nature.

Photo 1: Dunes Learning Center citizen science logo.

Photo 2: Field Museum collections assistant Jim Louderman shows some of the critters in his collection in a Citizen Science Symposium video.