Monarch butterfly on a flower

Creating the Next Generation of Citizen Scientists

Jan 5, 2021

One of the keys to preserving Iowa’s limited natural resources is to help students understand the balance between the limitless needs of humanity and the stark reality of the Earth’s finite resources. How can educators instill in students a desire to keep Iowa’s resources available for future generations? One way is to encourage students to become citizen scientists. According to the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition (ICEC), “Citizen science projects combine useful observation or data collection with an opportunity for students to learn more about scientific principles, problems and processes as well as helping them better understand our environment and how to protect it.”

There are many opportunities to connect with citizen scientist projects around Iowa. Here is a list to get you started:

Before you and your students are ready to dive into your data collection adventure, you may need to set the stage with ecology, data collection, conservation or environmentalism concepts. Here are some Iowa PBS Education resources to help you get you and your students started on your citizen scientist adventure. 


Young Explorers
If you are working with young citizen scientists, the Iowa PBS Young Explorers collection is a great place to start. Topics in this collection are presented in easy-to-understand, everyday terms and connect with books and activities to encourage students to investigate their world like young scientists. The Monarch Tagging clip or the How to Create a Seed Ball clip created in partnership with the Blank Park Zoo are great places to start to get your young citizen scientist’s gears turning.

Grades 6-8

Iowa Land and Sky
Iowa Land and Sky brings viewers a unique perspective of the state's landforms, rivers and towns. The collection presents an entertaining and educational exploration of Iowa’s natural environments and environmental challenges. The visuals and stories created through the project help students better understand and appreciate the ecological and geological diversity of Iowa.

Created and refined with several Iowa middle school teachers and AEA science consultants, the Iowa Land and Sky NGSS-aligned storylines connect unique Iowa locations like Engeldinger Marsh and Devonian Fossil Gorge with key middle school geology and biodiversity concepts. The Iowa Plant and Animal Reproduction Strategies Storyline allows students to analyze decades of Iowa DNR Volunteer Frog and Toad Call Survey data in order to make learning connections with plant and animal reproductive strategies.

These are just a few of our Iowa PBS Education science resources to help you energize the next generation of citizen scientists.