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Grass Gazers: Using citizen science as a tool to facilitate practical and online science learning for secondary school students during the COVID-19 lockdown
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  • Shanice Van Haeften,
  • Andelija Milic,
  • Beth Addison-Smith ,
  • Christopher Butcher,
  • Janet Davies
Shanice Van Haeften
Queensland University of Technology
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Andelija Milic
Queensland University of Technology
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Beth Addison-Smith
Queensland University of Technology
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Christopher Butcher
Corinda State High School
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Janet Davies
Queensland University of Technology
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Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

30 Jun 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
30 Jun 2020Assigned to Editor
30 Jun 2020Submission Checks Completed
09 Jul 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned

Abstract

The coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted educational systems worldwide, in particular primary and secondary schooling. To enable students of the local secondary school in Brisbane, Queensland, to continue with their practical agricultural science learning and facilitate online learning, a small-scale citizen science project was designed and rapidly implemented as a collaboration between the school and a multidisciplinary university research group focused on pollen allergy. Here we reflect on the process of developing and implementing this project from the perspective of the school and the university. A learning package including modules on pollen identification, tracking grass species, measuring field greenness, using a citizen science data entry platform, forensic palynology, as well as video guides, risk assessment and feedback forms were generated. Junior agriculture science students participated in the learning via online lessons and independent data collection in their own local neighborhood and/or school grounds situated within urban environments. The project provided useful data on local distribution and flowering of grass species. The experience allowed two-way knowledge exchange between the secondary and tertiary education sectors. The unique context of restrictions imposed by the social isolation policies as well as Public Health and Department of Education directives, allowed the team to respond by adapting teaching and research activity to develop and trial learning modules and citizen science tools. The project provided a focus to motivate and connect teachers, academic staff, and school students during a difficult circumstance. Extension of this citizen project for the purposes of research and secondary school learning, has the potential to offer ongoing benefits for grassland ecology data acquisition and student exposure to real-world science.