Zooniverse Education Chicago Classroom Visits

Photo by: Rhett Sutphin
This trusty steed could bring Zooniverse education to your classroom.  Photo by Rhett Sutphin.

During our pre-Zooniverse days, Laura and I both worked with students.  I worked as a museum educator and Laura as a math teacher.   Being  educators in an office of developers and designers is wonderful because of the opportunities to engage in great conversations about marrying technology and educational opportunities within the wide world of Zooniverse.  Sometimes though, you miss the smell of school lunch and want to get in front of a group of kids.  Thus Laura and I thought it would be fun to go on the road and make ourselves available for classroom visits.  Sadly no fancy tour bus for us, just the CTA or my old Volvo 850s.

Would your students like to discover an exoplanet?  How about explore the Serengeti?  Zooniverse educators (aka Kelly & Laura) want to come to your classroom and share the exciting world of citizen science with your students.  Let us show your students how they can contribute to scientific research via Zooniverse’s collection of online citizen science projects.

We are reserving a limited number of days in February, March, and April to visit schools in the Chicago area (City of Chicago and immediate suburbs).  Requests will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.  Participation will also be determined by educator date availability and location of school (we need to be able to get to you).  Preference will also be given to schools requesting more than one session on a day.  Sessions can range from 20-45 minutes depending on the topic.

We’ll work with you to tailor a presentation and related activity to fit the needs of your class.  We can speak about citizen science as a research method or speak about specific projects. If like to request a classroom visit, please register your interest by answering the questions below.

UPDATE:  Thanks for your interest in Zooniverse education classroom visits.  As of February 21, we have reach capacity for visits this spring.

Planet Four

You may or may not have already come across Planet Four the latest member of the Zooniverse family, our Martian project, and let’s face it Mars is hot right now. Since Curiosity Rover touched down on the surface in August of last year, after surviving Seven Minutes of Terror, through which much of the world waited with baited breath, we’ve all gone a little Mars crazy. Or is that just Zooniverse HQ?

There are a range of Mars related teaching resources out there and NASA’s wavelength is a great way to access a collection from across multiple NASA missons. However, if you’d like your students to do some real exploring, look at real data, while making a contribution to scientific research, how about letting them loose on Planet Four?

Personally I’ve dreamed of visting Mars for as long as I can remember, but in my imagination Mars was always a dusty, rocky outpost. Planet Four has totally revolutionised my vision of our nearest neighbour, the diversity of the landscape is breathtaking, inspiring and totally unexpected.



These spectacular images of the southern Martian pole were taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a great collection of education resources relating to this mission.



The task that volunteers are asked to undertake on Planet Four is fairly easy, it’s simply a case of marking fan and blotch features on that appear on the frozen carbon dioxide ice during the winter months. The size and direction of the fans are a great indication of the wind speed and direction, so measuring these will help planetary scientists better understand the climate on Mars. For more details, check out the Planet Four “About” page or the project Blog which has some great postings from the science team.

So I do wonder, would this be an interesting project to use as part of a geography lesson, perhaps to discuss some of the processes that might have occurred to create some of the features we see? Or maybe a physics lesson, where students measure the length of the fan features and discuss what wind speeds would be required to send the material that far across the surface. What assumptions would you need to make and are there any experiments you could design to recreate the patterns?

If you’ve got any idea’s please do share them here or on ZooTeach!

Planet Four and Stargazing Live

Tonight is the start of the 2013 round of the wonderful BBC Stargazing Live in the UK. Three nights of primetime astronomy programmes, hosted live from the iconic Jodrell Bank. Last year the Zooniverse asked the Stargazing Live viewers to find an exoplanet via Planet Hunters (and they did!). This year we want everyone to scour the surface of Mars on our brand new site: Planet Four.

Every Spring on Mars geysers of melting dry ice erupt through the planet’s ice cap and create ‘fans’ on the surface of the Red Planet. These fans can tell us a great deal about the climate and surface of Mars. Using amazing high-resolution imagery from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) researchers have spent months manually marking and measuring the fans to try and create a wind map of the Martian surface, amongst other things. They’ve now teamed up with us to launch Planet Four, where everyone can help measure the fans and explore the surface of Mars.

Planet Four

The task on Planet Four is to find and mark ‘fans’, which usually spear as dark smudges on the Martian surface. These are temporary features and they tell you about the wind speed and direction on Mars as they were formed. They are created by CO2 geysers erupting through the surface as the temperature increases during Martian Spring. These geysers of rapidly sublimating material sweep along dust as they go, leaving behind a trail.

Classifying fans on Planet Four

The fans are just one feature that you’ll see. The image above shows some great ‘spiders’, with frost around their edges. There’s lots to see, and hopefully the audience of Stargazing Live will help us blast through the data really quickly.

Stargazing Live begins at 8pm on BBC2. If you can’t watch it live then why not hop onto Twitter and follow the #bbcstargazing hashtag? You’ll also find Planet Four and the Zooniverse on Twitter as well.

Association of Science Educators Annual Conference


Just like our science team colleagues (Planet Hunters and Cyclone Center ) educators also attend professional meetings and conferences to share work, learn about the latest advances in our field, and to meet with friends and colleagues.  This past week Laura and I spent three days at the Association of Science Educators Annual Conference at the University of Reading.

Our primary aim for attending ASE was to spread the word about ZooTeach and other upcoming Zooniverse education resources.  ZooTeach is a new website containing resources and lessons relating to Zooniverse projects made for teachers by teachers.  It’s early days for the online Zooniverse education community, so we’re trying to get the message out wherever we can.

Our corner of the ASE exhibitors hall.
Our corner of the ASE exhibitors hall.

Speaking to teachers was far and away the best part of ASE.   Many teachers stopping by our booth already use Zooniverse projects in the classroom.  Other teachers were excited to find a new free resource allowing them to bring real data and the chance to make contributions to current scientific research to their students.  Laura and I also spoke with many of our science education colleagues about potential collaborations in the future.

There are a lot of exciting things on the  horizon  In fact, if you’re a classroom teacher who might be interested in helping us test some of these new resources, drop us a line!