I introduced the students to the concept of "citizen science", and we discussed the pros and cons of it and its usefulness. I told them about projects like the Cornell Lab's FeederWatch, the Backyard Bird Count, and Project BudBurst as "in-person" kinds of projects. Then I pulled up the website Zooniverse.com and clicked around a bit to show them all the different kinds of projects they could contribute to from the comfort of their own couch. Some of them are kind of like video games or entertainment apps you might have on your phone, you know? Like, tap on all the penguins you see in this picture.
I then instructed them to do their own searching around. They were to spend 1-2 hours a week either contributing to an interesting project they had found or spending that time trying out different ones. They were to keep a journal recording what they did each week, whether they tried out something new or "found" different kinds of animals that walked by a wildlife camera, or whatever.
I had them turn their journals in to me a couple of times in the first part of the semester so that I could see that they were on track, and offer some guidance if they were not. At the end of the semester, they turned in their journals, did a bit of research about the topics associated with the projects to which they contributed, wrote up a short paper, and gave a presentation to the class about what they learned. They and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope this idea for involving students in science is useful to you.
*I can't seem to upload the actual file with the project details. If you'd like a copy before I figure out how to fix this, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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