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Home > Research & Collections > News > How Community Science Inspires its Youngest Participants

How Community Science Inspires its Youngest Participants

NHMLA and partners will study learning outcomes with a $2.2 million grant

Miguel Ordeñana snaps a picture of a worm a young community scientist found at Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park.


Community science (also called citizen science) isn’t new, but it’s the way of the future. In this arm of the scientific enterprise, volunteers from the public work with scientists to help answer real world questions. This relationship is as symbiotic as some of the species they study: Scientists get more and otherwise inaccessible data, and community scientists get better acquainted with the world around them, make discoveries, collaborate with scientists, and, sometimes, co-author scientific publications. Through this process, science – viewed by many as rarified – becomes accessible to everyone.

Become a community scientist today!

“Community science is one of the most powerful tools in the biologist’s toolkit. By crowdsourcing data collection, researchers can now answer questions that would have gone unanswered without the help of community scientists ,” said Herpetology Curator and Urban Nature Research Center Co-Director Greg Pauly.

To what extent community science serves its youngest participants is an active area of investigation. A consortium of scientists from NHMLA, UC Davis, the California Academy of Sciences, London’s Natural History Museum, the Open University, and Oxford University will study the learning outcomes for young community scientists with a recently awarded $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Economic and Social Research Council. Of interest are how young people engage with community science projects and how programming can enhance their learning outcomes, from their understanding of the science content to their sense of agency for taking further actions using science.

“There is very little research on the learning outcomes of youth involved in community science. This is a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate the power of youth community science particularly when working with urban communities in London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles,” said NHMLA Community Science Manager Lila Higgins.

Community science engages all generations in science, but for its youngest participants it has the potential to be truly life-changing. This study will investigate some of the outcomes and impacts of community science on today’s students, and how placing science within their reach from an early age could position them to be lifelong learners and scientific thinkers.



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