Media Monday: 5 Ways to Celebrate Citizen Science at Birthday Parties

A couple years ago, I celebrated a milestone birthday at the 2012 BioBlitz.  The BioBlitz took place at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. I’d never been to that part of the U.S. before, and exploring the park was the best way to get a feel for the Rockies. I’ll never forget looking out at the mountains, seeing elk wander in the woods, and learning first-hand how elevation helps determine the climates of the different environments the park protects. I’ll also never forget that birthday since I was celebrating it in such a monumental way!

Take a look at this GeoStory, which was created by 10 students who attended that BioBlitz. Their photos captured everything from wildlife and fantastic scenery, to families interacting with scientists and park rangers, to the faces of children seeing an insect they’d never seen before.

BioBlitz 2012 GeoStory

Spending time outside and exploring a new (or familiar!) place is a great way to celebrate a birthday, and I hope that you will try a few of these ideas to help inspire your students on their big days. After all, birthdays mark a brand new year, and that’s the perfect time to ignite the spirit of citizen science in your classroom.

Here are five ways you can incorporate citizen science into a birthday celebration at school:

1.  Celebrate all birthdays in a single month all at once with a Schoolyard BioBlitz.  Allow the birthday kids to be group leaders (if they want to) and divide and conquer with your classroom to scope out what’s living in your playground! Watch this video to get inspired and learn about what activities you can create to get your kids excited for the event.

2.  Make your own classroom GeoTour to document your students experiences. Use this handy guide to create geo-tours using our MapMaker Interactive. Have your students take photos or draw pictures of the wildlife and plants that they discover outside. Students can write a very short snapshot of their experiences, and attach all of the artwork, photos, maps, and text into a geo-tour that you can either present to the birthday boy or girl or keep in your classroom to refer to whenever you discuss citizen science.

3.  If it’s a rainy birthday party, you can take citizen science indoors.  Have your students draw or create wildlife or plants that they’ve seen outside, and create your own indoor outside! Have your students share their stories of being outside—what they’ve seen, what they were surprised about, and what they are looking forward to doing outside when the rain goes away!

4.  Bring in a special guests! Birthday parties are always made more special with special guest visitors. Ask someone in your area—a scientist, park ranger, or even a classroom of older students—to come in and talk about citizen science and what interesting things can be discovered just by being outside. They can also share with your students how they’ve made a career in science! Older students may be studying something that they can share with your students. Seeing older kids present on a topic in your classroom may inspire your students to want to learn more.

5.  If you want to plan a different birthday citizen science event for each month, check out our citizen science ideas page. Some projects may lend themselves better to certain seasons, and you may want to see a variety of ideas in order to cater to a diverse classroom with a variety of interests. I think my favorite idea on that page is the collection of weather data!

It doesn’t take much to incorporate citizen science in your classroom, and if you are trying to decide how to make it extra fun, I recommend pairing it with a birthday celebration! As your students get older, it makes sense that they will need to discover an appreciation for our world; by incorporating citizen science in birthday celebrations, you are helping to teach your students to extend thoughtfulness to the world around them.

If you do use some of these ideas or if these ideas have sparked thoughts of your own, please let us know by leaving a comment!

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