When Can I Become a Scientist?

Today’s post comes from Virginia Jones, a Zooniverse Teacher Ambassador Workshop participant.  Virginia has taught science at Bonneville High School for 28 years.  She lives in Idaho Falls, ID with her hiking partner, Cleo, a Labrador puppy. She enjoys sharing the excitement of scientific discovery with people of all ages.

Like most 6 year olds, my granddaughter is eager to learn about everything. She is especially drawn to nature and animals. In fact, she wants to be a scientist or a veterinarian when she grows up. One day she said to me, “Grandma, can you teach me science?” I told her that I could do better than that. “You can be a real scientist today, “ I said.

We logged into Zooniverse and chose Snapshot Serengeti. Some of the pictures were beautiful. Many of the pictures featured the rear end of animals, a source of endless laughter for the 6 year old citizen scientist. While I had to maneuver around the site in the beginning, she became familiar with the steps very quickly. She is a very good reader, so in no time at all she was helping with the classification and learning about the animals of the Serengeti.

Her young eyes were able to spot animals that I might have missed. We went through a series of pictures that looked like grass dancing in the wind. On the last picture, I was ready to push the nothing here button when she yelled;”there’s a bird!” I would have missed the guinea fowl in the deep grass but Anne Marie saw it immediately.

We spent a pleasant half hour identifying animals, discussing what it must be like to live in the Serengeti and arguing about which animal’s rear end we were looking at. When we finished, Anne Marie couldn’t believe how easy and fun it was to help the scientists. Maybe next time we will look at galaxy pictures and be astronomers for an afternoon with Galaxy Zoo. Perhaps the ocean will call us and we can explore the ocean floor with Seafloor Explorer. She may even be ready to look for dips in light curves to discover extra solar planets in Planet Hunters.

I am lucky that Anne Marie still needs to have some adult guidance to work in the Zooniverse. I can still spend some quality time with her and she still looks to me as an authority on all things science. It won’t be long before she is leaving her grandmother behind and making discoveries of her own.

You are never too young (with a little help) or too old to enjoy making discoveries in the Zooniverse. Everyone can have the satisfaction of advancing science as a citizen scientist.

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