Congratulations to Barbara Jacobs-Smith, an adult leader for the NSF-funded Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science project. She has been granted a sabbatical from her teaching position to volunteer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with their Bird Sleuth curriculum. Her work will support the Cornell Lab staff through creating lessons and activities that help youth learn diversity and science process.
Ms. Jacobs-Smith has been an Extension Adult Leader for three years with Driven to Discover, collecting data and conducting science investigations with her 4th, 5th, and 6th grade Breck Birders group. Asked how her participation in Driven to Discover helped get her to the Lab, Barbara explained, "It is through my association with D2D that I was able to make the connections that allowed me to successfully contact The Cornell Lab of Ornithology." Drs. Robert Blair and Karen Oberhauser, University of Minnesota Extension specialists in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education, introduced Jacobs-Smith to staff at the Cornell Lab, and provided positive recommendations of her work. The Driven to Discover Annual Research Summit also provided Cornell staff the opportunity to see Barbara's leadership in-action. In her words, "Weeks later, my D2D research team, the Breck Birders, were presenting their project at the Ecology Fair at the University of MN. A man I did not know came up to me and asked if I was the adult leader of the Breck Birders. He introduced himself. He was Rick Bonney, Director, Program Development and Evaluation at the Cornell Lab. Bonney is credited with coining the term 'citizen science' in the 1990s and launched the eBird website in 2002. He was very impressed with the Breck Birders' project and with their presentation, which he witnessed. He told me he was aware of the invitation Jennifer Fee had extended to me to work at the Lab. He went on to say that he would very much like me to come to the Lab to work and learn. He thought that there was a lot I could do to support the work they are doing there."
Barbara credits her participation in Driven to Discover and the Minnesota Master Naturalist program as giving her the tools to help students practice authentic science. Master Naturalist provided her with specific information and a deeper understanding of the biomes in which she teaches. Driven to Discover provided her with skills and activities to engage her students in science investigation. Jacobs-Smith said, "The D2D program gave me the tools to allow my students to behave as professional scientists do. I believe it has helped move my instruction from merely telling students about science to helping them become scientists. The information is very important, but it's what children do with that information that makes the difference. It is the difference between knowing and understanding, the difference between seeing themselves as passive recipients of information or as scientists themselves."
We wish Barbara Jacobs-Smith all the best during her 2014-15 opportunity to work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and look forward to her continued participation in University of Minnesota Extension programming. Visit the program site to learn more about Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science.