Presenter: Dr. Heidi Ballard, Associate Professor, Environmental Science Education; Chancellor's Fellow, 2015-2020, University of California, Davis
Title: Investigating youth-focused community and citizen science: Ways youth take up environmental science across projects and settings
Abstract: Community and citizen science (CCS) with youth participants is rapidly expanding, but very little research has addressed the ways participation in environmental research and monitoring impacts youth understanding and use of science, nor their engagement and civic action with their community. Studies of learning outcomes for citizen science in general have primarily consisted of survey research via online questionnaires, which rarely reveal the particular activities or processes through which participants learn. For the last three years, our team has been examining case studies of youth-focused community and citizen science project around Northern California to closely examine the ways youth participate in the programs as well as how they engage with the science on their own terms, in the context of working on local conservation science research. I will discuss how we have developed and are applying concept of environmental science agency (ESA), and adaptation of critical science agency, to describe the development of science understanding and agency through participation in environmental research and monitoring. We see youth participants’ environmental science agency (ESA) as a foundation for change at individual, organization and ecosystem levels. ESA combines not only disciplinary understanding of environmental science and inquiry practices, but also the youths’ identification with those practices and their belief that the ecosystem is something on which they can act. We are in the process of analyzing data from 10 different programs, but I will discuss in detail two programs each implemented across two sites (one in-school and one out-of-school setting) in the San Francisco Bay Area (one focused on beach monitoring and one on water quality monitoring) involving youth ages 14-18 years. We conducted in-depth observations and pre- and post-program interviews with youth and educators, in the field and in classrooms. We also analyzed youth-generated blogs, professional posters, field notebooks and classroom assignments. I will relate our findings about youth development of different aspects of ESA under different program structures and goals, to how educators and practitioners can better design curricula and programs. We use the lens of ESA to identify factors for youth-focused CCS in science and environmental educators, specifically, 1) provide opportunities for youth to take responsibility for the quality of the data collected, in leadership roles, 2) provide opportunities for youth to present or share their findings with external audiences, and 3) offer ways for youth to create projects or take environmental action steps to address the problems they have identified with their science.