Everyday Science for Teens

Jim Lemon is a dragonfly hunter. He searches for dragonflies and damselflies that live around many of Ohio’s waterways. As the southwestern regional coordinator for the Ohio Dragonfly Survey, Lemon often leads tours, frequently with teenagers, to search for dragonflies.  

But the waterways where the flies live are shrinking, which means that dragonfly and damselfly numbers are shrinking, too. So, the Ohio Odonata Society has asked citizen scientists, just like Lemon, to collect data for research scientists, which will help them keep track of dragonfly numbers 

All over the country, thousands of volunteers participate in a variety of citizen science projects, just like the Ohio Dragonfly Survey. For teenagers, citizen science is a terrific opportunity to build their college resume. When teens participate in citizen science, they learn how to collect data, the value of the scientific method and process, as well as help impact science policy. Science goes from the classroom to the outdoors.  

Citizen science is important for understanding the world around us, says MaLisa Spring, state coordinator for the Ohio Dragonfly Survey. Imagine how many dragonflies one scientist can collect, versus that of hundreds of citizen scientists. 

Citizen science programs also encourage students to seek out conservation information to educate themselves and others, says Kathy Garza-Behr, wildlife communications specialist at the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Plus, students gain ownership of the results, because it’s inquiry-based learning instead of teaching from a book. “It makes them find the answer or even ask new questions, Garza-Behr says. 

There are boundless opportunities for teens to participate in citizen science. Here are several opportunities that teens can do in their backyard.  

Ohio Programs   

Ohio Dragonfly Survey  

The Ohio Odonata Society is using citizen science to document current dragonfly and damselflies species in Ohio.    

Ohio Division of Wildlife Student Wildlife Research Symposium  

In this program, students create research projects that they’ll present at an annual symposium.  

Ohio Bio Blitz  

Teaming with iNaturalist, citizen scientists record data on various natural world species in Ohio.  

Ohio Bee Atlas  

Citizen scientists share their bee observations using iNaturalist data collection tools. This project is especially important, since the rusty patch bumblebee, a common Ohio species, was declared a federally endangered species.   

National Programs 

NASA’s S’COOL Program  

Observing all the clouds at all times of the day is difficult. As part of the GLOBE program, NASA asks citizen scientists to collect observations of clouds at different times of the day, and also to collect weather data at those observation times.  

Bugs in our Backyard 

Did you know that insect species are dying at a rapid rate? As a citizen scientist, K-12 students can count bugs in their backyard, school or neighborhood, and share that data with entomology scientists.  

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