‘If my friends or family walked past our (green water infrastructure) site with me, they got excited and wanted to help’-Josiah, 17.
Last week we had a great download with all of the citizen scientists who participated in the beta version of the citizen science program that we are helping scientists at Drexel develop. This program puts 16-65 year olds at the forefront of measuring the impact of distributed green water infrastructure projects in their communities in New York City. We are designing the program, a citizen-scientist training curriculum and a data gathering web platform for Franco Montalto at Drexel University. The work expected of the citizen scientists participating in the program is unprecedented. Most citizen scientist programs try to make it as ‘easy’ as possible to participate, at the most only expecting participants to gather one to four data points. Drexel’s program requires it’s citizen scientists to gather up to seventy different pieces of data every two weeks when they visit the site. That’s a lot and one of our challenges has been to design programming, curriculum and a web platform that build the meaning, excitement, tenacity and ownership that are necessary to keep the citizen scientists engaged and doing their very best.
Despite these efforts, we were concerned. This project represents a huge leap in expectations for citizen science and furthermore, the sites that are being measured are disparately located, thereby participants don’t have each other to lean on, challenge or inspire. With all of this in mind, none of the team expected the true excitement expressed by the citizen scientists during the download. In short, they not only loved doing it but what was truly surprising was that they wanted to do more, much more and not just measurement. In fact, they wanted to take full ownership of their sites, gardening and making other improvements.