Category Archives: Education

U!Scientist and the Galaxy Zoo Touch Table at Adler Planetarium

“Everyone try to grab the same galaxy,” a boy exclaimed while motioning to his classmates. Around the table, six students began dragging an image of a galaxy from the center of a large touch screen onto their own workstation. It’s very likely these students are the first people to set eyes upon this galaxy and decide how it should be classified. This kind of work isn’t reserved for astronomers in observatories or researchers in labs. Any visitor to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago can participate in real scientific research through the new U!Scientist touch table exhibit.

In July, the Zooniverse team finished their year-long development of a multi-person touch table experience and accompanying exhibit to remain on the Adler floor for several years. On the touch table, visitors participate in the Galaxy Zoo project (galaxyzoo.org), which provides valuable data to researchers in the U.S. and abroad by asking volunteers to classify galaxies by shape. In an effort to bring the Zooniverse experience to the Adler floor, the National Science Foundation awarded the Adler-Zooniverse team a grant to design a multi-person touch table experience, allowing guests to participate in the Zooniverse in a more social, collaborative way.

At the table, guests step up to their own color-coded workspace and select galaxies from an explorable image sliver of space in the middle of the table. Next, the guest must decide if the galaxy is smooth in shape, contains unique features, or isn’t a galaxy at all. After submitting a classification, the volunteer is shown a quick tally of how past volunteers have classified the galaxy. Adler visitors of all ages, from school groups to grandparents, are becoming quick Zooniverse volunteers.

U!Scientist includes some firsts for the Zooniverse, including the ability to collaborate directly with one another while classifying. When finding an oddly-shaped galaxy, volunteers can send the image to a neighbor for advice or begin a conversation with their group. Hopefully, these in-person conversations about science will spark curiosity and cause planetarium visitors to become active Zooniverse volunteers online.

Since cutting the red ribbon, guests are finding new ways to interact with the exhibit. Couples take the opportunity to compete with one another in classifying the most galaxies, facilitators explain the research process to campers arriving early to the museum, and children outsmart their parents by explaining the shape of galaxies using examples at each workstation. On average, Adler guests are responsible for over one thousand classifications per day through U!Scientist.

Want to see how the touch table app is doing? Visit uscientist.org to see a running tally of U!Scientist and Galaxy Zoo classifications as well as a world map of current classifications through Galaxy Zoo.

The U!Scientist touch table exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant #AISL-1713425.

Chicago Earth Fest celebrations

The Chicago Zooniverse team had a great time celebrating Earth Day with members of the community at the Adler Planetarium and Chicago Botanic Garden.

At the Adler Planetarium’s EarthFest celebration on Saturday, April 13, guests were able to participate in an in-real-life version of Floating Forests, tracing areas of kelp from a satellite image onto tracing paper to see how a consensus result might be reached in the online version. Online at https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/zooniverse/floating-forests, you’ll be able to do this same activity, helping researchers learn how Giant Kelp forests change over time.

The next day at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s UnEarth Science Festival, visitors learned about the parts of a plant though a matching activity that segued into Rainforest Flowers, a Zooniverse project helping researchers at the Field Museum in Chicago to create a database of images of plants from the tropical forests of Central and South America.

We love meeting the community! If you missed us this time, keep your eye on this blog for our next event.

Join us at Earth Fest!

The Zooniverse is going on the road!

To celebrate Earth Day 2019, members of the Zooniverse team will be at two events in Chicago the weekend of April 13 and 14.

First, visit us at the Adler Planetarium’s Earthfest on Saturday, April 13. Participate in a real-life version of our Floating Forests project, pick up some cool Zooniverse swag, and talk to members of the Zooniverse team about their work. The event is free with Adler admission and we’ll be there between 10 am and 4 pm.

If you can’t make it to the Adler, join us at the Chicago Botanic Garden for the Unearth Science Festival on Sunday April 14. There, we’ll be talking about all the fantastic Zooniverse projects you can contribute to online or via our app, as well as taking an in-depth look at the anatomy of flowers via the Rainforest Flowers project.

Hope to meet you there!

 

Adler Members’ Night recap

We had a blast hanging out with Chicago-area volunteers and Adler Members at last month’s Adler Members’ Night! Visitors were able to try out potential new Zooniverse projects and Adler exhibits, including a constellation-themed project in collaboration with the Adler’s collections department, as well as U!Scientist, our NSF-supported touch table installation which features Galaxy Zoo.

Northwestern University researchers shook it up demonstrating why earthquakes behave in different ways based on plate friction, registered jumps on a seismograph and quizzed guests on seismograms from jumping second graders, storms and different earthquakes. Their Zooniverse project Earthquake Detective is currently in beta and is set to launch soon.

And we were delighted to watch volunteer @GlamasaurusRex complete her 15,000th classification LIVE IN PERSON. She made the classification on Higgs Hunters. Check out the video here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1jttO1w1OfPY9LEaS5SjmEzy36PiGnY4U

We took it offline and you can too! A night of Zooniverse fun at the Adler Planetarium

Our inaugural Chicago-area meetup was great fun! Zooniverse volunteers came to the Adler Planetarium, home base for our Chicago team members, to meet some of the Adler Zooniverse web development team and talk to Chicago-area researchers about their Zooniverse projects.

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Laura Trouille, co-I for Zooniverse and Senior Director for Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium

Presenters:

  • Zooniverse Highlights and Thank You! (Laura Trouille, co-I for Zooniverse and Senior Director for Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium)
  • Chicago Wildlife Watch (Liza Lehrer, Assistant Director, Urban Wildlife Institute, Lincoln Park Zoo)
  • Gravity Spy (Sarah Allen, Zooniverse developer, supporting the Northwestern University LIGO team)
  • Microplants (Matt Von Konrat, Head of Botanical Collections, Field Museum)
  • Steelpan Vibrations (Andrew Morrison, Physics Professor, Joliet Junior College)
  • Wikipedia Gender Bias (Emily Temple Wood, medical student, Wikipedia Editor, Zooniverse volunteer)
  • In-Person Zooniverse Volunteer Opportunities at the Adler Planetarium (Becky Rother, Zooniverse designer)

Researchers spoke briefly about their projects and how they use the data and ideas generated by our amazing Zooniverse volunteers in their work. Emily spoke of her efforts addressing gender bias in Wikipedia. We then took questions from the audience and folks chatted in small groups afterwards.

The event coincided with Adler Planetarium’s biennial Member’s Night, so Zooniverse volunteers were able to take advantage of the museum’s “Spooky Space” themed activities at the same time, which included exploring the Adler’s spookiest collection pieces, making your own spooky space music, and other fun. A few of the Zooniverse project leads also led activities: playing Andrew’s steel pan drum, interacting with the Chicago Wildlife Watch’s camera traps and other materials, and engaging guests in classifying across the many Zooniverse projects. There was also a scavenger hunt that led Zooniverse members and Adler guests through the museum, playing on themes within the exhibit spaces relating to projects within the Zooniverse mobile app (iOS and Android).

We really enjoyed meeting our volunteers and seeing the conversation flow between volunteers and researchers. We feel so lucky to be part of this community and supporting the efforts of such passionate, interesting people who are trying to do good in the world. Thank you!

Have you hosted a Zooniverse meetup in your town? Would you like to? Let us know!

Crowdsourcing and basic data visualization in the humanities

In late July I led a week-long course about crowdsourcing and data visualization at the Digital Humanities Oxford Summer School. I taught the crowdsourcing part, while my friend and collaborator, Sarah, from Google, lead the data visualization part. We had six participants from fields as diverse as history, archeology, botany and literature, to museum and library curation. Everyone brought a small batch of images, and used the new Zooniverse Project Builder (“Panoptes”) to create their own projects. We asked participants what were their most pressing research questions? If the dataset were larger, why would crowdsourcing be an appropriate methodology, instead of doing the tasks themselves? What would interest the crowd most? What string of questions or tasks might render the best data to work with later in the week?

Within two days everyone had a project up and running.  We experienced some teething problems along the way (Panoptes is still in active development) but we got there in the end! Everyone’s project looked swish, if you ask me.

Digging the Potomac

Participants had to ‘sell’ their projects in person and on social media to attract a crowd. The rates of participation were pretty impressive for a 24-hour sprint. Several hundred classifications were contributed, which gave each project owner enough data to work with.

But of course, a good looking website and good participation rates do not equate to easy-to-use or even good data! Several of us found that overly complex marking tasks rendered very convoluted data and clearly lost people’s attention. After working at the Zooniverse for over a year I knew this by rote, but I’d never really had the experience of setting up a workflow and seeing what came out in such a tangible way.

Despite the variable data, everyone was able to do something interesting with their results. The archeologist working on pottery shards investigated whether there was a correlation between clay color and decoration. Clay is regional, but are decorative fashions regional or do they travel? He found, to his surprise, that they were widespread.

In the end, everyone agreed that they would create simpler projects next time around. Our urge to catalogue and describe everything about an object—a natural result of our training in the humanities and GLAM sectors—has to be reined in when designing a crowdsourcing project. On the other hand, our ability to tell stories, and this particular group’s willingness to get to grips with quantitative results, points to a future where humanities specialists use crowdsourcing and quantitative methods to open up their research in new and exciting ways.

-Victoria, humanities project lead

Floating Forests: Teaching Young Children About Kelp

Today’s blog post comes from Fran Wilson,  a second grade teacher at Madeira Elementary School. Fran strives to promote an interest in science in her classroom and help students discover that not all scientists work in labs wearing white lab coats and safety goggles. She seeks meaningful opportunities for her students to participate in citizen scientist work to be responsible citizens, inspire future careers in science, and to connect science concepts to the real world.

This fall I decided to implement Zooniverse’s Floating Forests in my second grade classroom. As soon as I read the description of the project, I knew it was perfect for addressing both my state science and social studies standards dealing with interactions within habitats – living things impact the environment in which they live and the environment can also impact living things. The best part was that my students would be able to engage in meaningful work to acquire these concepts. I like to incorporate project-based learning whenever I can to allow my students to assume ownership of their learning and Floating Forests was no exception. My first challenge was determining how to introduce my students to the project when I didn’t even live anywhere close to an ocean.

Introducing the Problem by Integrating Curriculum

Sea otters are very cute! I decided to use second graders’ love for animals as the entry to the study of kelp. I believe that children learn efficiently when curriculum is integrated across content areas so I made a plan. I selected the book Sea Otters by Suzi Eszterhas. The text tells how a mother sea otter cares for her growing pup. The book’s full page color photos with just the right amount of text on each page made this an ideal book. I chose to begin with a language arts lesson. I projected the book onto my Smartboard and modeled a lesson on determining the main idea and details using a page of the text. Sea Otters does not contain subtitles so I told my students that determining the main idea for a page of text was like creating the subtitle to accompany a portion of text. My students eagerly participated in guided practice of this skill while oohing and aahing at the photos of the sea otters and becoming increasingly more intrigued with the information presented in the book.

By the time we finished reading the book, the children had seen the word kelp in the text and noticed the sea otters lounging on top of the ocean in a bed of kelp. It was the perfect time for me to pose some questions: What exactly is kelp? and Why is it important to the sea otter? My naturally curious students shared their thoughts and the interest in the sea otter and kelp escalated.

Shared Research

How can we learn about the sea otter and kelp?  That was the next question I posed after the groundwork was laid for engaging my students in collaborative research. Of course Sophia suggested that we find some more books on sea otters and Jon Miguel added that we should even find some on kelp. Tommaso proposed that we do an internet search to locate information on kelp. This planning step empowered my children with making the decisions about how to learn as well as reinforcing the steps a scientist might undergo while researching. Foreseeing my students’ plan, I had already checked out multiple books on sea otters written at various readability levels along with the few books on kelp that I was able to find.

I selected the book Sea Otters by Laura Marsh to read aloud next to my students. This enabled them to compare the information presented in two books on sea otters.   My students listened closely to identify the facts from the text that highlighted the importance of kelp to the sea otters. I started a large chart titled “Sea Otters and Kelp Facts” and modeled how to take notes for our shared research. After reading aloud each of our class notes, the students decided that they had learned some ways in which sea otters depended on kelp but that they still didn’t know much about kelp. At that point we started our internet search.

The Floating Forests webpage provides some great resources, even for use with second graders! Under the education tab of the site, I found a link to a video produced by NOAA to introduce the kelp forest to my students. I was excited that one of my students suggested that they should take notes about kelp in their science journals. (I so love when they take the initiative in their learning!). I discovered several other informative, kid friendly sites with information and videos that we viewed in class and my students continued to take notes. After watching the videos Miki suddenly made the connection and proclaimed, “Hey we eat kelp at my house!” The next day she brought kelp in for everyone in the class to taste.

Websites for Learning about Kelp:

  1. Here is a great introductory site to begin the study of kelp. At this link students can view a video of the kelp habitat created by NOAA. My students were in awe after viewing the video. (Ok I’ll admit I probably let them watch it at least 5 times and each time the students took away new facts!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcbU4bfkDA4
  2. This website provides information about the kelp forest habitat and the animals which live among the kelp. The kids loved taking the quiz at the end after reading the information on the site.  http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/eviau/edit557/oceans/norma/oklpfst.htm
  3. The following website supplies lots of information for children to learn more about kelp and its uses. http://aquarium.ucsd.edu/Education/Learning_Resources/Voyager_for_Kids/kelpvoyager/
  4. This video about the disappearing kelp forests in Tasmania prompted my students to think about the need to protect kelp habitats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRfxFZ4ndlg
  5. Here is a link to a Dragonfly episode in which kids dive to explore sea life at different depths of the kelp forest. http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/show/kelpforest.html

Books for Learning About Sea Otters and Kelp:

  1. Baker, Jeannie. The Hidden Forest. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2000.  This story of two children retrieving a fish trap off the eastern coast of Tasmania helps children to see the kelp forest with wonder and appreciation. The author’s note at the end of the book offers insight to this disappearing kelp forest.
  2.  Douglas, Lloyd. Kelp. New York: Scholastic, 2005.  This simple book presents facts about the kelp forest. It’s perfect for lower level readers.
  3. Eszterhas, Suzi. Sea Otter. New York: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2013.  Readers can learn how a mother sea otter cares for her pup from birth until she is grown up.
  4. Marsh, Laura. Sea Otters. Des Moines, IA: National Geographic Children’s Books, 2014.  This informative book contains interesting facts on sea otters and is accompanied by colorful photos.
  5. Slade, Suzanne. What If There Were No Sea Otters?: A Book about the Ocean Ecosystem. North Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books, 2011.  This book enables children to see the importance of the sea otter as a “keystone species” in the kelp habitat. It explores the food chain and how the plants and animals of this ecosystem are connected to one another.
  6. Tatham, Betty. Baby Sea Otter. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005.  A mother sea otter protects and cares for her pup until it is able to care for itself.
  7. Wu, Norbert. Beneath the Waves: Exploring the Hidden World of the Kelp Forest. San Franciso, CA: Chronicle Books, 1992.  Children will be intrigued by the photos of the kelp forest and the animals that live in it while checking out this book. It is a more complex text that children will need guidance to read.

Compiling the Research:

What a list of kelp facts my students generated! After reading and researching about kelp on the internet, I compiled all of their facts onto our classroom chart. I sensed my students’ enthusiasm towards learning and researching but this was confirmed when I opened my email the next morning from a parent.

Sonia's note to her mom. Dear Mom, I missed you when you were at your art class. Today at school we learned about kelp. Did you know kelp is good to eat? And it can help you if you’re ill. And kelp has gas inside of it. The gas is stored inside big round leaves. These leaves are called sword leaves. Kelp is used in toothpaste and shampoo. And so many other things too. Love, Sonia
Sonia’s note to her mom.
Dear Mom,
I missed you when you were at your art class. Today at school we learned about kelp. Did you know kelp is good to eat? And it can help you if you’re ill. And kelp has gas inside of it. The gas is stored inside big round leaves. These leaves are called sword leaves. Kelp is used in toothpaste and shampoo. And so many other things too.
Love,
Sonia

What should we do with all of these facts? That was the next question I posed.   Addy had the answer to that and she shared that the facts should be placed into categories. I cut apart all of the kelp facts on the chart and we laid them out in our meeting area. The students quickly sorted the facts into categories. Some of these categories included: What is kelp, Parts of kelp, Kelp forests, Animals that live in kelp, Fish and the kelp forest, Sea otters and kelp, and Scientists and kelp. Next, some children volunteered to work in small groups to write the information into a paragraph with a main idea sentence and details. (Yay! This writing linked back to the initial reading of text for main ideas and key details.). Other children volunteered to illustrate the text with crayons and watercolors. The class research on kelp was almost finished until we started…

Discovering the Ecosystem:

Extending learning across the curriculum is really important to me so while the children were working collaboratively to research kelp through viewing websites and the few books I found, I was meeting with guided reading groups to read and discuss books on ocean life. The children began to think about the ocean as a habitat for many animals and the kelp forest as a very important habitat! After sharing the book What if There Were No Sea Otters?: A Book About the Ocean Ecosystem by Suzanne Slade with a small group of children, Ben announced, “I get it!   It’s all connected like a big puzzle!” Kalley latched onto the term “keystone species” highlighted for the sea otters in the text and Sonia explained the relationship between the sea otter and the kelp in the ocean habitat.

All these relationships between the many sea animals in the kelp habitat had the children talking. We needed to solidify their thoughts in a way that we could see them. That’s when the children created a giant model of a kelp habitat. The kelp stalks grew quickly on the large blue poster paper while sea otters were being drawn in a corner of the room, prickly purple and red sea urchins were crafted, fish with fins formed, and kelp labels were created. Of course a new page was added to the children’s book on kelp. Now it was time to publish!

A digital story was created with all of the children’s research. I scanned the children’s writing along with their illustrations. I used Keynote and placed each of the children’s pages of text onto a slide. A small group of children were recorded reading the text upon the slides. The keynote was then exported as an iMovie. We posted the individual pages of the children’s kelp research in the hall for all the other students of our school to enjoy. I submitted the digital story to the Floating Forest blog. Here is the link to view my students’ digital informational book on kelp: http://blog.floatingforests.org
A digital story was created with all of the children’s research. I scanned the children’s writing along with their illustrations. I used Keynote and placed each of the children’s pages of text onto a slide. A small group of children were recorded reading the text upon the slides. The keynote was then exported as an iMovie. We posted the individual pages of the children’s kelp research in the hall for all the other students of our school to enjoy. I submitted the digital story to the Floating Forests blog. Here is the link to view my students’ digital informational book on kelp.

Finding Kelp on Floating Forests

It was finally the right time! My students knew about kelp and understood what an important habitat it was for many sea creatures. Now was the time for sharing Zooniverse’s Floating Forests project with my class.   Do you think you’d like to help some scientists with a special project on kelp? I asked. My students were SO excited to become involved. They were even more excited when they realized that they would be looking for kelp on real satellite photos taken from space!

First, I prepared for the children’s “official training.” I connected my computer to my Smartboard and the children viewed the brief tutorial on the Floating Forests website. They quickly learned how to classify the satellite photos and circle the kelp. We circled hundreds of photos together and each time they spotted kelp they became very excited.

Circling kelp on the Floating Forests website continues to be a favorite classroom activity. My students enjoy working in teams of two or three on an iPad taking turns to mark the satellite photos. They often keep a tally of how many times they identified kelp on a photo. I love the discussion it prompts among teams of children circling photos. Through their work, they’ve learned that kelp is found near coastlines. They’re intrigued with the places in the world that kelp might be found.

Participating as citizen scientists with the Floating Forest Project has enabled my students to engage in meaningful work. They feel responsible contributing to important scientific research. My students know that some of the kelp forests are disappearing and they are genuinely concerned. This work has made them more interested in their world and has instilled a need to work collaboratively to care for our earth. My students’ interest in science has been fostered and perhaps some of them will even be inspired to become scientists. I feel like my students have gained so much from this learning opportunity but perhaps it’s what they think that counts most.

Student Responses to Floating Forests

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Some student reactions to Floating Forests
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Using Tag Groups to Collect Images on Talk

Hashtags are an important element of how the current generation of Zooniverse’s Talk discussion system* helps to power citizen science. By adding hashtags to the short comments left directly on classification objects, users can help each other (and the science teams) find certain types of objects—for instance, a #leopard on Snapshot Serengeti, #frost on Planet Four, or a #curved-band on Cyclone Center. (As on Twitter, hashtags on Talk are generated using the # symbol.)

One of the ways in which zooites can take advantage of hashtags is by using Talk’s tag group feature. A tag group (also called a “keyword collection”) is a collection that automatically populates with all of the objects that have been given a specific hashtag by a volunteer.

For instance, here is a Galaxy Zoo tag group that populates with all Galaxy Zoo objects that have been tagged #starforming. It will continue to automatically add new images that are given the #starforming tag as well.

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There are two ways to tell that this is a tag-group collection, not a manually curated one. The first is that the fourth letter in the last part of the URL (CGZL000056) is an L, for “live” collection. (The other type will have an S as the fourth letter, for “static” collection.) The second is that under “description,” the conditions for the tag group will be displayed: what tags it includes and excludes.

Users can create a tag group in either of two ways: 1. Click the “create a tag group” button that will appear underneath the “tags” on the right side of any object page that has at least one hashtag (and then edit the conditions to their liking), or 2. Add “/#/collections/new/keywords/” to the end of the Talk URL; for instance, talk.planktonportal.org/#/collections/new/keywords/

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At this point, there is no way to create a collection that includes, say, on Operation War Diary, #casualty or #sniper—only objects that have #casualty and #sniper. You can, however, exclude certain tags: e.g., all #casualty objects not also tagged #sniper, or #casualty and #sniper but no #horses.

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Also, please note that, like all collections, these tag groups are currently capped at 500 total visible images.

It is likely that the next generation of Talk (currently being built) will feature a more refined method of curating collections from hashtags, as well as a more effective search functionality. For now, however, zooites should keep the tag group feature in mind… especially as it will be a critical feature of an upcoming project!

* As of January 2015, the Zooniverse projects using the most recent generation of Talk are: Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, Operation War Diary, Milky Way Project, Snapshot Serengeti, Planet Four, Galaxy Zoo Radio, Asteroid Zoo, Disk Detective, Sunspotter, Cyclone Center, Plankton Portal, Notes from Nature, Condor Watch, Floating Forests, Penguin Watch, Worm Watch Lab, Higgs Hunters, and Chicago Wildlife Watch.

Happy Halloween! Going Batty for Citizen Science

Sadly there don’t seem to be any scientifically valid citizen science projects about ghosts, poltergeists, hobgoblins, or werewolves.   There are, however plenty about that Halloween staple – the bat.

Bats get a bum wrap as blood sucking pests.  Nothing could further from the truth!   Bats are incredibly helpful to us humans because they are natural pollinators and pest controllers, but they are also an indicator species.  Indicator species are plants and animals that can be studied to give a snapshot of an ecosystem’s environmental health.

Here are a few ways that you as a citizen scientist can get involved with learning more about these amazing animals.

Bat Detective  – Zooniverse’s own bat project.  Bat calls are recorded by data collection citizen scientists and then uploaded on to the Bat Detective website.  Zooniverse volunteers classify the calls to give scientists a better idea about the distribution of these animals in Europe.

Alaska Bat Monitoring Program – Did you know that Alaska is home to five species of bats?   If you live in Alaska you can help the Alaska Department of Fish and Game collect learn more by making and sending in your observations of bats!

iBats (Indicator Bats Program) – This international effort recruits volunteers to record bat calls all around the world.  iBats is collaboration between the Zoological Society of London and the Bat Conservation Trust.

 

Know of other bat-related citizen science projects?  Please share them as a comment below!

 

Adler Teens Working in Citizen Science

Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Xu and Thomas Janopoulos about their experience as our Citizen Science interns at the Adler Planetarium as part of the Teen Intern Program.

Sarah Xu is currently a senior attending Air Force Academy High School. She has a wide range of interests that change all the time, but computer science has been an interest ever since she was introduced to it in 7th grade. She also is really into Biology, but the Adler Planetarium has recently sparked interests in Astronomy.

Thomas (Tommy) Janopoulos is a Sophomore at Jones College Preparatory High School. He aspires to be an aerospace engineer, focusing on the mechanical engineering aspects of the field. He has a large interest in using the autodesk inventor program, a 3D modeling program to recreate objects virtually.

How did you become a Teen Intern at Adler Planetarium?

Tommy: I learned about the Adler teen internship from my sister, who was a long time volunteer at the Adler. She suggested that I apply to their upcoming internship. She explained that I already know some of the staff from the Web Making for Civic Hacking program, which was a program where we created websites about teen issues to present to problem solvers interested in finding solutions to our issues, we did earlier in the year and having a familiarity with the staff would make the transition into a work environment easier. Also the fact that the Adler is a space science museum would be great for me considering I want to go into aerospace engineering as a profession. So I decided to apply to the internship and now I am in the Citizen Science intern position creating an activity on a Zooniverse project about urban wildlife in Chicago.

Sarah: How I got my internship has a lot to do with my school. Air Force Academy High School has a partnership with Adler. Freshmen year, we had several field trips where we did various activities around the Adler. Many of the students at my school get involve with the Adler. I was brought into the a teen program, Youth Leadership Council (YLC), my sophomore year by one of the volunteers who attended my school. Youth Leadership Council is an after school program where teens plan workshops for civic hack day, a day where people come to offer solutions for any problems that are presented. There I got to know Nathalie Rayter, who is in charge of the Adler teen programs and internship. By talking to her, I received a lot of opportunities to be part of the planetarium. Junior year, I was a member of YLC and a volunteer telescope facilitator. I just kept coming back to Adler through many different programs. This summer I was looking for something to do because I previously interned at an investment firm, but didn’t really enjoyed it much. I was trying to find an internship that’ll provide a different experience. My classmates and teachers along with Nathalie told me to go for the Adler internship. I applied and got the position as a Citizen Science Intern!

As a citizen science intern, I learned a lot of what the Zooniverse does. Zooniverse is a group of people who work on websites for citizen science. On my first day, I was introduced to two projects. One of them is finished while the other one is still being worked on, but will launch September 10th. Tommy, my peer, and I chose to work with the one that is still being worked on. The reason for that is it takes place in Chicago and it would be a bit easier to have the participants we meet at events around Chicago connect to it. Our project with our department is to design an interactive activity that will spread the word of this citizen science project and also citizen science itself. We designed our activity for mainly museum visitors, such as families and younger kids.

What does being a Teen Intern entail?

A teenager as an intern… the title says it all! A bunch of teenagers working together sounds like a lot of fun. For the most part it is, but it also requires many skills to become one. As teen interns at the Adler Planetarium, we have several projects going on. Every intern is assigned to a department with a supervisor who will give you projects to accomplish. On top of that, every teen is required to work on a personal project that we have to pick from a list. Every teen has to make a project to be showed off at the Community Bash which is a party to display what we have done over the summer. We also have to do our daily jobs which can consist of various tasks such as making an activity to being on the floor doing an activity. Now it might not be something that is interesting to you, but having an open mind is very important. You never know until you actually follow through with the project and that is from personal experience! With all these projects happening all within the same 8 weeks, we have to be very organized and on top of our schedule in order to finish them in time. One badly organized and managed day will set everything behind! But incase that does happen, communication and diligence were the key things that helped put us back on track. It is imperative to communicate with our supervisors and other peers so that we can collaborate to get our work done. This internship is not about working alone at all. 99% of the time we did activities and projects with each other. You must be able to work with others because that will really help you succeed in this internship. There is just one last thing you need… Enthusiasm! You will be interacting with lots of visitors and your peers. If you do not have a positive attitude everything else you need to succeed in this internship will not be able to flow because no one wants to work with someone that does not want to be there.

How did you choose what to work on and what did you need to learn to do the work?

When we walked into Zooniverse, Julie, our supervisor, gave us a run through of what citizen science is and what kind of work they do in the office. Then she told us about the two newest biology projects: Condor Watch and a project looking at urban wildlife in Chicago (now with a name, Chicago Wildlife Watch). Condor Watch is up and running, while the other project launches September 10th. Fortunately with the launch date near, they had a demo site we were able to explore to get a feel of what it is. So, we played around with the projects to see what they’re really about. We were given the option to either work together on one or separately on either. Tommy said he liked the animal conservation one because it takes place in Chicago and I agreed. We figured it was easier to introduce the activity and connect it with most of the museum visitors because we’re in Chicago. It’s also a good way for Chicagoans to be more aware of what’s truly around them in this amazing city. It is not just buildings and artifacts; we also have nature that could put people in awe as well.

Chicago Wildlife Watch is a collaboration between the Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo partnered with Zooniverse to create a project that will help with animal conservation in Chicago. Camera traps are set up all around Chicago to gather images of what kind of animals live here, their behavior, and how they interact in the urban setting. So we came up with an activity that will not only help promote the project, but also convey the message of nature being everywhere to the public. We designed this activity with museum visitors in mind, meaning it is aimed towards younger kids and families. We use animal cards containing the picture and some factoids of the animals along with a big image of a basic background with a house, park, tree, underground, and water. During the activity, depending on the age group, we give the physical description of the animal and have the kids guess it, whereas with little kids, we would show them the picture and have them guess that way. If they guessed it right, we would hand them the card and have them stick it up to where they think the animal lives. Even though we live in the urban Chicago, we’re still part of nature. Along with that, we hope that participants will have an idea of what citizen science is and what exactly is Zooniverse. A more detailed description and run through will be up on Zooteach when the project launches on September 10th!

After we chose what project we wanted to make an activity around, we had to first learn what concepts we would need to cover, so we went onto the demo site to learn more about the project. We had to researched what conservation is and how it applies to the project so we could have a better understanding on what points we wanted to get across for our participants. Looking at the website and the background information given wasn’t enough. We had a meeting with one of the driving forces of the project, Seth, and one of the lead members of the Lincoln Park Zoo and its Urban Wildlife Institute on what he would like people to take away from our activity. He said, “I want people to know that nature is everywhere”. That gave us a way to go on our activity. It was hard to come up with an activity to do. We tried to google some classroom activities that teachers do for animal conservation. After a few days of research and talking to our supervisor, we took a whole morning to just brainstorm outreach activity ideas. Our supervisor gave us an activity idea earlier that week on how they had classrooms work to classify images of animals and put them into the according bin or bag. So then we took that idea and try to add on to it to fit into our urban wildlife activity. We thought we could have people classify the animals of Chicago. Then we came up with an idea of having our participants try to guess what animals live in Chicago since the project looks at Chicago’s urban wildlife. We thought this activity would hit our learning goal of understanding what nature is and that it is all around us, even in the city. So we presented this idea to our supervisor and then ran with it. We typed up our concept and showed it to peers and supervisors and were constantly updating and adjusting to develop the best activity possible. Now time to test it out!

Our visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum helped us to a realize what age group we really aim for. At the Nature Museum, there was mostly little kids who are around 3 or 4 years old excluding summer camps. We weren’t able to test it with kids that young because there is a limited amount of knowledge as to what the kids know about urban wildlife. They do know the very basic animals, but it was hard to carry out our whole activity because our activity contains questions that are at elementary school level. However, there were adults that were interested in what we do and often they are parents of little kids. With the adults, we found out that we just have to describe what citizen science is, what the Zooniverse does, and the project that they’re currently working on. We would proceed to do the end part of our activity which is to show them the demo site of Chicago Wildlife Watch. They would try out the demo site and because it only has a limited amount of pictures, we would try to direct them to try out our other projects. Sometimes Snapshot Serengeti would be used to show a better demonstration of what the fully functional website of the project would look like. At the end of the talk, either one of us would give them a postcard to encourage the visitors to go on Zooniverse.org to try out the projects on there. Through testing it on the floor at Adler, we noticed that it is difficult to draw people in. Creativity really helps with floor activities. People are usually more drawn into something “cool”.

What were the challenges with your project?

Sarah: After we designed the activity, we had to test it out on the floor. That was the second most challenging part of the whole project. The first was having to come up with an activity that’s will get people involved and convey the message we want. I’ve always struggled with public speaking. It was hard for me to go up to the visitors and ask them to help us test run the activity. However, I got past the awkward stage after having to interact with visitors on so many different occasions.

Tommy: Creating this activity has been so much fun and enjoyable but like any other job it had its challenges. My biggest challenge was taking a Citizen Science project and creating a fun interactive activity that educates people about urban wildlife and how they can contribute to science. When you get this job of creating an activity you think creating an activity is easy but having to consider how people learn, how not to bore young kids, how to get people to stop and participate, and how to hit all of your objectives you set becomes a massive task. With a lot of hard work and the help of my peer Sarah, we researched and brainstormed and found a way to take all of these aspects into one activity which is now “What Lives With Us.”

What do you feel you have gained from being a Teen Intern this summer?

Sarah: Through this internship, I had to talk to visitors a lot, so communications and public speaking are things that I got away from it. My ways of starting a conversation and demonstrating things to the public has improved. Aside from that, I was also able to learn what Zooniverse does, what citizen science is, and about Chicago’s wildlife. More importantly, I’ve gained friendships with other teens and professional relationships with the staff members that will only benefit me. It’s great to be able to have this experience of interning at a museum. This summer has been awesome thanks to the Adler, and I hope all the other teens and supervisors had as much fun as I did!

Tommy: This internship has given me so much its hard to put it into one sentence but the one thing I can say is that this job is incomparable to any other opportunity for someone my age. This gives teenagers the opportunity to gain work experience and actual know what its like to be in a work environment while learning new things everyday as if we are in an outside school program. This job showed me how to teach others my knowledge by using simple techniques such as outreach activities to make people understand simple concepts also just teaching me what is and how to create an outreach program. I have learned all the steps educators take in creating lesson plans and understanding how the lesson benefits the participant so they walk away with a skill or knowledge. Now I can identify what it takes to teach others. This internship has also provided me with friendships and relationships that I would never had made without it. I have developed peer friendships by working and hanging out with each other on a daily basis. I have gained relationships with my supervisors, not just the worker to supervisor relationship but friendship as well. We are able to talk with each other not just about work, which has created a fun workplace. Finally this internship has given me connections that can benefit me for years to come in whatever field I decide to pursue. I feel it has given me everything it had to offer and it exceeded expectations in how amazing an experience this has been I gave the Adler my all and I hope I was able to return the favor.