Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Citizen Scientists

Are you concerned that kids today are spending too much time
inside watching TV and playing video games? Does it sadden you to
think they may be disconnected from the world of nature? Then you'll
love Loree Griffin Burns' Citizen Scientists. It encourages kids to
become keen observers of the critters around them and, in doing so,
help us all gain deeper understanding.
In 1952 people started tagging monarch butterflies. Decades of
this careful reporting led to mapping of migratory routes,
understanding of life cycles, and the discovery of amazing forests of
butterfly-covered trees. The Christmas bird count was started in 1900
by a man who wanted people to record the birds they found that day
rather than competing to kill the most. Among other things, data has
chronicled changing ranges of bird species. Frog count can be quite
tricky. Often it involves doing an auditory inventory without ever
seeing the critters. The Lost Ladybug Project has discovered that
three species that were thought to be extinct, including New York's
official state insect, were not in fact gone forever.
Being involved in projects like those does not require advanced
degrees or fancy equipment. Year after year tens of thousands of
citizens gather data in places that can include urban vacant lots with
devices no more complicated than nets, paper, and pencil. The book
provides detailed instructions and book and on line resources. Their
cumulative results reap huge dividends in our understanding of
individual species and the environments they inhabit.
Loree relates a story where she and her young daughter were
seeking a monarch butterfly chrysalis. After she said how hard
finding it would be, she turned around to see her daughter examining
one. She freely admits that the youngest citizen scientists may be
some of the best ones, being shorter, having keener senses, and not
being distracted by details from other aspects of their lives--i.e.,
the perpetual what should I make for supper.
The subtitle is "Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own
Backyard. What a wonderful invitation! I hope you and your kids take
her up on it!
On a personal note, I am in the middle of a snow day. A beautiful,
wonderful, enchanting snow day. I've just finished my snow day cake:
red velvet with cream cheese frosting and red sugar. As soon as
enough snow has piled up I'm going sledding.
A great big shout out, on behalf of my son and the other students in
her school district, goes out to Bangor's Superintendent of Schools,
Dr. Betsy Webb. Way to call it!
Also I commend the great lady, Mother Nature, who set the lovely stage
for such festivities.
Sincere apologies to the winter weary among my readers. Your day will
come soon.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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