Tag Archives: chicago

Celebrating Earth Day

Zooniverse team members based at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium celebrated Earth Day this weekend at Earthfest, a two-day-long celebration of the planet we call home.

Visitors to the Adler Planetarium participate in a Zooniverse hands-on activity during Earthfest
Visitors to the Adler Planetarium participate in a Zooniverse hands-on activity during Earthfest

In addition to many activities for all ages throughout the museum, museum visitors were able to speak with Zooniverse team members to learn about the many earth-related projects available online and on the app. Visitors could also participate in a real-life version of Floating Forests, in which they used tracing paper to illustrate areas of kelp forests on a satellite image. The activity demonstrated how Zooniverse researchers use aggregation to combine many classifications into one very accurate result. Stay tuned for the results of those tracings, coming soon!

Check out a few more photos from the event here.

Zooniverse team members also had some help from our friends at the Field Museum, who stopped by to talk about Microplants, a Zooniverse project studying some of the earliest land plants in the liverwort genus Frullania.

We love speaking with museum visitors and sharing the excitement of participating in real citizen science projects. If you’re in the Chicago area and missed us last weekend, keep an eye out for more information about the Adler Planetarium’s spring Members’ Night, when we’ll have even more fun Zooniverse-related activities for you!

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Teens Designing Zooniverse-Themed Programs for Their Peer at the Adler Planetarium

This summer high school juniors and seniors from the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy program joined Zooniverse educators at the Adler Planetarium for six days of program prototyping. The IIT Boeing Scholars Academy seeks to inspire high-achieving Chicago-area teens to lead and serve through STEM with an emphasis on pursuing higher education. One component of the summer portion of the program is to embark on a Service Through STEM project during which the scholars coordinate with Chicagoland organizations on projects benefitting the organization. That’s where the Zooniverse team based at the Adler Planetarium comes in.

The Problem:

It probably doesn’t come as a complete shock that the dedicated corps of Zooniverse volunteers is not largely comprised of teens. That’s something we’d like to change. What better way to figure out how to better get more teens involved in Zooniverse projects than by going straight to the source? Sixteen IIT Boeing Scholars worked with Zooniverse and Adler educators on strategies to engage more teens in Zooniverse citizen science projects at the Adler Planetarium.

The Goal:

In order to develop ideas of how to better engage young people in Zooniverse citizen science projects, the sixteen IIT Boeing Scholars stepped into the role of informal science educator to develop a series of museum programs to potentially implement at the Adler Planetarium based around Zooniverse projects.

Museum Program Development:

A huge component of any informal museum educator’s job is to develop programming. Programs come in an endless array of formats – perhaps a five-minute science demonstration, a series of workshops for teens, or an interactive activity within a museum exhibit. As the saying goes there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and that’s certainly true of program development. No matter which model of program development you follow, there is a set of common considerations to be made including

  1. Who is this program for?
  2. What is the content of this program?
  3. What is the best format or program model to use?
  4. What should the audience take away?

 

Answers to these questions formed the skeleton around which the programs would be built.

Who is this program for?

This was the easiest question for the IIT Being scholars to answer. Since we’re looking for ways to engage teens in Zooniverse projects, the audience for the scholars’ programs was their high-school aged peers.

What is the content of this program?

The content for the programs being designed by the scholars was limited to the science content behind active Zooniverse projects. While a constraint, with over 20 active Zooniverse projects the list needed to be considerably narrowed down. The teens began assessing Zooniverse projects to determine which would be of the most interest to their peers. After careful review they selected Radio Galaxy Zoo, Condor Watch, Cyclone Center, and Planet Hunters as the projects that would be most engaging to teens. The science case behind each of these projects would be used as the meat and potatoes behind the programs the scholars designed. 

What is the best format or program model to use?

There are endless possible formats for an informal science program at a museum. In order to explore the options the IIT Boeing Scholars spent time exploring different museum programming models at the Adler. The participated in a 45-minute field trip workshop designed for 7th-12 graders, watched science demonstrations facilitated in Adler’s exhibits, explored museum exhibitions, and watched a planetarium skyshow. After this exploration the group created a menu of museum program models and defined them so that we could develop a shared vocabulary of what program models they would be working with.

  • Structured Workshop – a longer facilitated hands-on program with a set start and finish time
  • Unstructured Workshop –a longer hands-on facilitated program where museum guests can come and go as they like
  • Demonstration – a short facilitated program on the museum floor
  • Exhibit – one small piece of an exhibition that (e.g. a model and accompanying text panel about Saturn)
  • Exhibition – a collection of exhibits that group together around a central theme (e.g. Our Solar System)
  • Planetarium Skyshow – a presentation including images, music, and narration presented in one of the museum theatres

What is the goal of this program?

Some informal science educators would call them learning goals; others might call them program objectives. Whatever they’re name, program developers should identify what they want their audience to take away from a program. These may be experiential goals like “Have fun” or more content driven goals like “ Program participants will be able identify lead poisoning as a threat to the endangered California condor population.”   The IIT Boing Scholars aimed to incorporate at least one experiential goal and one content goal in their programs.

The Programs:

Once they were able to answer the questions above, the scholars were ready to put some meat on skeleton the questions provided. The scholars broke into four small groups with each group working together to write a rough draft of a program outline that could be used by a person unfamiliar with their ideas to facilitate the program. Here are the program ideas they came up with…

Program Name: Save the Condors

Featured Zooniverse Project: Condor Watch

Program Model: Demonstration

Description: This 10 minute floor demonstration was designed to bring awareness to the problem of lead poisoning within the critically endangered California condor population and publicize how members of the public can assist scientists in their continuing efforts to save this species. The demonstration starts off with a video placing the viewer in the shoes of a condor suffering the effects of lead poisoning. Next the facilitator shows a hands-on activity showing how lead spreads throughout the condor’s body when it ingests a lead bullet embedded within the carcass on which it was feeding. The demonstrations ends by introducing Condor Watch as means to help research scientists better understand how to detect early warning signs of lead poisoning.

 

Program Name: Inside a Cyclone

Featured Zooniverse Project: Radio Galaxy Zoo

Program Model: Planetarium Skyshow & Demonstration

Description: This group created a storyboard and script for a short skyshow. Unfortunately time did not allow for the development of a prototype that could be projected in one of the museum theatres. This program delved into the science behind tropical cyclones, also called hurricanes or typhoons. It introduced the mechanics of how these storms work, safety precautions that should be taken in the event of such a storm, and the drastic impacts these weather events can have on people and property. Cyclone Center was introduced as a way for people interested in meteorology to participate in the important research behind tropical cyclones.

 

Program Name: Are We Alone?

Featured Zooniverse Project: Planet Hunters

Program Model: Demonstration

Description: This 5-10 minute floor demonstration was designed to take place on a small stage on the museum floor. Using the Drake Equation, the facilitator engages audience members in a conversation about the possibility of alien life in our galaxy. The program ends with an invitation to actively participate in the search for habitable worlds through Zooniverse’s Planet Hunters project.

 

Program Name: The Mystery of the Universe: Black Holes

Featured Zooniverse Project: Radio Galaxy Zoo

Program Model: Structured Workshop

 

Description:

This 30 minute workshop was designed to introduce teens to perhaps the most asked about of space phenomena – black holes. Through a video, hand-on demonstrations, and a small group activity the facilitator guides program participants through. Radio Galaxy Zoo is presented as a way for teens to continue their exploration by helping scientists locate supermassive black holes.

 

We really enjoyed working with these bright and motivated young people!

Calling all Zooites! Your chance to attend the second Zooniverse Project Workshop in Chicago!

Meg Schwamb giving the Planethunters presentation
Meg Schwamb giving the Planethunters presentation in 2012
Photo © Julia Wilkinson

It’s almost a year since I attended the first ever Zooniverse Project Workshop in my role as an advisory board member. In April the second Zooniverse workshop will convene to discuss yet more exciting new projects. I’ll be there and hopefully so will Alice Sheppard (if her exam timetable permits!) This year, however, there is funding available for one more volunteer to attend. This is a responsible role for a dedicated and enthusiastic Zooite and that could be you!

This is a fantastic opportunity to meet the science teams behind projects old and new and to find out just what is involved in getting a project up and running. You will attend some great presentations and have the chance to contribute to some fascinating discussions and workshops. Last year we covered things such as design, how to get the best science out of a project and how to create the best user experience. You need to be prepared to take part in discussions and to talk about your experiences as a Zooniverse volunteer. The more you put in the more rewarding the conference will be and you’ll find that your contribution will be hugely respected and valued. Volunteers can make or break a project and I was certainly made to feel that my input was extremely important.

There is only one place available, however, so to help the team decide who gets to go please tell us in no more than 250 words a little about yourself, why you think you should go and what you can contribute to the discussions as a volunteer. Please add your full name and preferred e-mail address and send this to team@zooniverse.org with the subject line CHICAGO PLEASE. The closing date is 12 noon GMT on Thursday 7 March 2013. The Zooniverse team will choose the successful entry.

The Adler Planetarium
The Adler Planetarium
Photo © Julia Wilkinson

The conference will be held over two days at the Adler Planetarium, Chicago on 29 and 30 April 2013. Flight and hotel expenses will be reimbursed in full.

This really is a fantastic opportunity to contribute to citizen science and the future of the Zooniverse – don’t miss out!

For a detailed account of last years event have a look at the notes on my blog.

Under the Sea and On the Moon with Third Graders

We have had a great response from teachers in the Chicago area to our offer of making classroom visits. Yesterday marked out first visit to West Ridge Elementary in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.  After consulting with Ms. Tschaen, the third grade science teacher, we decided to present Seafloor Explorer and Moon Zoo to the students.  Apologies in advance for the lack of pictures, we were having way too much fun to think about proper documentation. 

One of the challenges while preparing for this school visit was figuring out a quick and easy way to explain crowdsourcing to third graders.  I scoured the web for a nifty interactive or video,but in the end decided a low-tech solution, a story, was the best solution. I told the students that when I was a kid my friends and I loved to play soccer.  One we were planning to play but my Mom told me I wasn’t allowed to until my room was clean.  When I was a kid, the floor of my room generally resembled a soup of toys, clothes, books, and papers.  Cleaning it was no small task and usually entailed the better part of a whole day.  I asked the students how they thought my friends and I solved the problem.  Every group offered the solution that we could work together to clean my room and then have time to play soccer together.  Voila! The principle of crowdsourcing quickly and easily explained.  Granted, I settled on a somewhat simplified definition, that crowdsourcing is getting a bunch people to help solve a bigger problem, but it did the trick and the students “got it”.

Next we were ready to set the stage with how Zooniverse projects utilize the efforts of many to solve problems involving large datasets.   With the first two classes, we decided to test a newly developed Seafloor Explorer classroom activity. For time’s sake we modified the activity by focusing on species identification and left out ground cover identification component.   After a 10 minute group discussion of Seafloor Explorer’s science goals and how to identify the different animals we were off and running.  Just like with the example of cleaning my room and soccer, the students called out that we needed more people to identify the 30,000,000 + images comprising this project’s dataset.  Success!  They were challenged to work together as a class to beat the time it took me to identify species on 40 different cards.  Working together each class about 1/3 of the time it took me to do it alone.  Double success!

Laura engaged the third class in lunar adventures using Moon Zoo.  Students learned a little bit about the history of moon exploration.  Next they discussed craters and the different ways we can find out information about our nearest celestial neighbor.   After a brief introduction to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, they divided into groups to explore individual portions of the moon.  Students worked together to mark any craters larger that their thumbprint on their section of the moon.  They tallied the total number of craters on their group’s individual moon section and compared them to the other groups’ moon sections. Finally students identified potential sites for a lunar lander to touchdown.

So, what did we learn from our adventures with third graders?  I’ve long suspected that, while students certainly have the ability to participate in most any Zooniverse project, it sometimes helps to introduce the project “offline”.  This may help students feel more secure when they begin participating on a project’s website.  Many teachers I’ve spoken with point out that students don’t always feel empowered in their practice of science.  By frontloading students with a little bit of a project’s background content and walking through the classification task together, students can easily see that they are more than capable to make an important contribution to current scientific research.  Working as a group also fosters a sense of community that we, as a class, are working together to help scientists make important discoveries and maybe even making some important discoveries ourselves.   I’m sure that there will be many lessons to learn over our remaining visits to Chicago-area classrooms.

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.