University of Minnesota

Driven to Discover: Citizen Science Research

The University of Minnesota’s Driven to Discover project (D2D) was inspired by the growing number of individuals engaged in citizen science. The development team consisted of research scientists, and Extension educators and youth development experts who built this project on the premise that citizen science programs provide opportunities to expand participant knowledge of both the content and the process of science. However, the team noted that there were missed opportunities to further participant outcomes by supporting independent scientific investigations. Funded activities focused first on training adult leaders to engage middle-school-aged youth in informal science education settings, including nature center groups, middle-school teachers working with youth during summer and after-school programs, and club settings (such as 4-H, and Girl Scouts). A second key category of funded activities focused on supporting the adult leaders as they engaged youth research teams in citizen science and independent research in a variety of outdoor settings. These activities included an annual research fair at which youth participants could share their work broadly, with their peers, adult mentors, and university scientists. Finally, the project team worked with external evaluators to understand the practices and team characteristics that best supported the goals of training and supporting adult leaders in their work with youth.  Two citizen science programs were used to develop the model: the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) and eBird.

Dr. Oberhauser and a D2D student group.

The Driven to Discover: Enabling authentic inquiry through citizen science project is an inquiry based curriculum designed for after school and summer programming for youth ages 10–14. The project uses nationally-known citizen science programs as the basis for engaging youth in authentic scientific research.

The curriculum was developed around the University of Minnesota's Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird and corresponding BirdSleuth Project. However, many of the resources we provide can be easily adapted for use with other citizen science projects. These curricula include Investigator's Field Journals for Youth (the Student Handbooks), and Facilitator's Guides for Adult Leaders working with youth.  There are available for free download below, and in our store.

D2D students presenting at the Insect Fair.

Young scientists are immersed in the ecology of their study organism as they learn to collect and submit data. While they are collecting data, they keep a journal of observations and questions. These personal observations are the basis for the second half of the project, in which youth conduct their own research. By participating in Driven to Discover, youth discover the wonders of science in the real world, beyond a textbook. They learn about the natural world, and begin to think of themselves as scientists.

For more background, visit the Driven to Discover website

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