Experiential Learning with Citizen Science Projects
The Snowtweets Project
Snowtweets is a citizen science project that offers experiential learning opportunities for all ages to gather climate change data.
This winter, turn your family’s snow days into opportunities for experiential learning through citizen science by doing some research for the Snowtweets project! Through observations, families can participate easily by taking measurements of the snow cover and sharing their data via Twitter. A project of researchers at Canada’s University of Waterloo, Snowtweets gathers information from around to globe to aid snow and ice researchers’ work. Paired with satellite-generated data on the snowcover, Snowtweets information helps to support researchers in their creation of tools for real-time snowmapping. Technology that could someday provide to-the-minute accuracy, especially as climate change data.
Collecting data for this citizen science project is relatively simple and can be done with ease once you know what you’re doing. Head outside with a ruler and find a patch of snow that is undisturbed. Avoid areas impacted by wind-driven drifting, falling snow from trees and roofs, and snow banks created by snowplows. Measure the snow depth by pushing the ruler straight down into the snow until it hits the ground.
To provide accurate data, it’s essential you’ve measured a spot in the snow that is genuinely representative of the amount of snow covering the ground. These observations are great opportunities for experiential learning. The first few times you take measurements, try measuring in various areas to see how accurate your measurements are. If you find that your first and second measurements are quite different, you might need to refine your technique or look more closely at the area you’ve measured. There might be some factors subtly affecting the snow’s depth. However, if your measurements are somewhat similar the first few times, then you’re doing it right!
Once you’ve collected data, share it with Snowtweets using a Twitter account. Snowtweets data can be shared using the hashtag #snowtweets, followed by your measurement and geographic location. geographic location can be shared as either as a zip code, latitude/longitude, city, state, and country. For example, a tweet from Western Massachusetts might read, #snowtweets 6.5 inches Northampton, MA, USA. Want to participate but don’t want to set up a Twitter account? Email your tweet to us, and we’ll tweet it for you.
The simplicity of the collection process for Snowtweets’ data makes the project appropriate for use with kids of all ages. It is an excellent experiential learning project. The youngest students can use the project as an opportunity to practice useful measurement techniques and accurate data collection. Their learning can be supported by creating a chart to track snow depth at home throughout the winter.
Older students might be more interested in making predictions about the amount of snow. This can be done by using Snowtweets’ world map to compare the amount of snow in New England to the amount in Norway or Russia.
Snowtweets isn’t just a one-time collection of data! Participants are encouraged to share data throughout the winter, even when there’s no snow. The project’s ongoing nature makes learning continuous and connected to the seasons. Continuously engaging with a project will help students of any age to solidify the concepts that they’ve discovered or practiced while participating. Find your boots and a ruler – and get measuring!
[Photo credit: (cc) John Beetham]