Citizen 2.0: How Citizen Science is Reinventing Learning and Empowering Citizens.

The printing press. Democracy. The internet. Citizen Science.

Each of these educates, connects and empowers people. They are extensions of our hunger to learn, share information and create solutions. Opening science to more people creates a virtuous cycle that strengthens science and empowers citizens. Citizen observations greatly expand the data base for scientific studies. In turn, this expanded knowledge and understanding of science empowers citizens to take an informed role in shaping the choices in their communities and world. Smarter science, smarter citizens, smarter world.

A full room of teachers and informal educators discussed a wide variety of science projects and activities yesterday at the NOAA Environmental Science Training Center in Oxford, Maryland. We saw how citizen science projects are enriching learning, connecting people to their environments, and empowering citizens to protect their health and communities. From students helping to identify species and habitat ranges in Maryland, to volunteers reporting sewage leaks in Baltimore, to people reporting the weather and changing seasons to better understand climate change, science is becoming more participatory and collaborative. Knowledge is power. Citizen science offers a path to strengthen scientific studies while empowering citizens with knowledge of scientific protocols and a deeper understanding of their environments and choices.

IMG_6515 by Shan Gordon.
See Salt?
William Bledsoe measures the salinity of water during the NOAA Citizen Science workshop in Oxford, Maryland. The workshop demonstrated how citizens can participate in a wide variety of scientific projects and activities. The workshop showed how students identify and monitor species in their school yards, how citizens monitor sewage spills in their communities and how we can all monitor weather and wildlife to understand climate change.
IMG_6505 by Shan Gordon.
Building a hydrometer from scratch. Workshop participants had to create a tool to measure water salinity using only common household items. Each team found a different solution to the problem.
IMG_6508 by Shan Gordon.
William Bledsoe works on the design of his salinity tester. Salt water is heavier than fresh water. Teams used that difference to design a tool that would determine whether a water sample was fresh or salt water. Could you design a salinity tester? What would you use? In this exercise, tasting was not allowed.
IMG_6525 800p by Shan Gordon.
David Flores, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper at Blue Water Baltimore, discusses how volunteers collect evidence on sewage leaks in Baltimore City to help clean up city streams and the Baltimore Harbor.
IMG_6527 800p by Shan Gordon.
Map showing water testing sites by Blue Water Baltimore. The map shows recent tests of water quality in the Baltimore area.
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