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The potential for young citizen scientist projects: a case study of Chilean schoolchildren collecting data on marine litter

Author(s): Eastman L, Hidalgo-Ruz V, Macaya-Caquilpán V, Nuñez P, Thiel M

Abstract

A wealth of environmental and ecological questions are answered with the help of citizen scientists of all ages, but schoolchildren (<18 years) rarely participate in these projects. This is surprising considering that many citizen science projects would ideally complement modern school curricula, ranging from science, to math, reading and arts. Here we present a citizen science project supported by schoolchildren who investigate the problem of marine litter along the Chilean coast. Schoolchildren received specially designed education materials, carefully tested instructions and sampling kits. Wherever possible they were accompanied by recent university graduates, who supported the teacher in supervising the sampling process. After the samplings, schoolchildren were enthusiastic and expressed interest in participating in future environmental projects. Based on our experience, we present seven steps for designing a successful citizen science project with schoolchildren. We suggest that involving schoolchildren in citizen science projects will not only enhance the spatial and temporal scale of data collection, but also support school curricula, public understanding of the scientific process, and environmental management decisions.

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