5 Ways Teachers Can Encourage Kids to Be Neighborhood Scientists

Science is more than testing and remembering theorems and principles. To make it fun, informal, and informative for young students, Vivienne Byrd, librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library and head of the system-wide STEAM and Neighborhood Science initiative, recommends educators teach it using neighborhood science, also known as citizen science.

“Neighborhood science is basically a science for everyone, with or without a science background,” Byrd said. “It’s up to everyone to be able to participate in science.

It is an interactive and hands-on approach to science education in which people of all ages can engage and learn. Byrd said that, because it involves collecting and interpreting data, using technology, and working with communities, “It really connects all of these kids to see how science is in the real world, to the instead of memorizing scientific theories and methods. “

Following a webinar she hosted for PBS SoCal, Byrd explained how educators can bring neighborhood science into the classroom.

1. Promote active participation

Making STEM learning more convenient is essential, said Byrd. Teachers can promote this with projects that develop motor skills and require some form of physical activity. For example, teachers can have children blow air through straws into cups of cabbage water and plain water to see the effects of carbon dioxide by observing the change in color of the water. .

“The way I see it is that you will have really understanding children. [the lesson], not just memorize it, ”Byrd said. “You give them this space to think, ‘Oh, if this is happening here in our classroom, what about people who live in different parts of the world? “”

2. Link science to the real world and your community

Community engagement is an important feature of neighborhood science, Byrd said, as it helps students become more aware of their surroundings and learn more about their neighborhoods and communities.

“You make that connection and it stays with them,” Byrd said.

For example, she mentioned a project where children tested the pH levels of water in their homes and made observations based on its taste and appearance. Then the students shared their results with each other, which helped them discover the differences in the quality of their water and how this might affect their families and neighbors, identify who has cleaner water and learn a little more about the local reservoirs.

Neighborhood science is basically a science for everyone, with or without a science background. … It’s up to everyone to be able to participate in science.

Vivienne Byrd, Librarian III, Los Angeles Public Library

3. Think about problem solving

After doing neighborhood science activities, Byrd said teachers could encourage students to think about their next steps and how they can solve a problem by helping to create a solution, which, in turn, can deepen connections with the community and empower students to create positive change. .

“Get them to think about what they can do,” Byrd said. “Why does my classmate have better water and we don’t?” What action can we take to change the water quality in our communities or in my apartment complex? Do I have to go see someone to talk about it? ‘ “

4. Turn data into action

Since data is everywhere and can be used to change the world, Byrd said educators should stress the importance of data – whether in the form of photos, words or measurements – and how to interpret it so that ‘they can be used for change. For example, students can use the data they’ve collected about the water quality in the community and write a letter to their city council asking for improvements.

5. Always keep the environment in mind

Byrd said it is imperative in today’s world to teach science classes that take climate change into account and are conservation-oriented because “we live on a planet that is going through a lot of not so many changes. pleasant, ”she said. “Younger children,” this planet is theirs. We must do all we can to help them survive on the planet. “

“Everyone knows STEM is important,” Byrd said. “But instead of just teaching someone to be an engineer to build a better engine, we have to teach that person to be an engineer who can build a better engine and also build [one] which can use renewable energies.

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