Driven to Discover: Enabling Youth Inquiry Through Citizen Science is a National Science Foundation funded program that involves middle school youth in asking scientific questions, designing and conducting their own research, and improving their understanding of science through participation in citizen science.
Project team members from Environmental Science Education and Youth Development hosted the 2011 Annual Research Summit last weekend. On the first evening of the event, participants enjoyed new science activities with their fellow youth, leaders, and professional University of Minnesota Scientists. They chose from exploring the outdoors on a night hike, dissecting owl pellets, hanging camera traps, designing/testing roller-coaster-like tracks for ball bearings. You can learn more and watch a short video at http://goo.gl/0iYyh.
On day 2, participant youth had a chance to present poster summaries of their summer inquiry projects for a group of scientists, their adult leaders, and other natural resource volunteers. Youth worked closely with members of their research teams and professional scientists to plan and conduct their investigations over the summer. Individuals or teams of youth then spent the last few weeks creating their displays. In groups of four or five, they took turns at the Summit describing their study questions, methods, results and conclusions for young colleagues and professional judges. Akin to professional conferences, youth asked questions of each other, shared ideas, and compliments.
Some young participants described advantageous studies in their poster presentations. In his research project, for instance, one boy sampled more Monarch butterflies for a common disease than any other location in MN, but the University of Minnesota. One young girl counted color bands in each millimeter of length for many Monarch caterpillars as part of her study.
For many youth, this presentation was a practice run for their science fair or similar project later in the year. Some 4-H participants displayed their posters at a county fair. Most of these posters and presentations were well-crafted, polished, and practice.
Congratulations to the young research team participants on completing and presenting some compelling scientific research. Visit http://www.extension.umn.edu/citizenscience/ to learn more about Driven to Discover: Enabling Youth Inquiry Through Citizen Science.