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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The impact of taking kids outside with D2D

Scouts-2010 048gerri fitzloff (1).jpgI want to take the opportunity in this final D2D eZine to praise all of the hard work done by our adult leaders. It is hard work leading one of these groups - there is group dynamics to navigate, science to teach, and encounters with questions you may not know the answers to. It's a challenge you've all risen to! This program not only cultivates a love and aspiration for science, but it fosters a love and appreciation for nature as well. As adult leaders you are both the facilitators and front seat spectators to all of that.

There is a LOT of competition with nature these days: technology (computers, video games, TV); more buildings, cars and roads; fear of strangers; parental attitude; fear of pests. The list could go on forever. For kids, boundaries are smaller, and the freedom to roam is diminished.

People have always had a fear of the unknown, and throughout history nature has often been included in that. The difference now is that collectively as a society, we know more about what's out in nature, but when we get down to the individual level the understanding isn't always there.

During my time as a naturalist and informal educator I observed fear of pests (among other things) first hand. I will never forget the mother who asked me if her children "could catch ticks" from being in the long grass where we were building our fort (having fun!). When I told her it was possible, but not likely as ticks were long past their peak, she immediately wanted to take her kids home and away from the fun they were having. I did not mention to her that it was also possible to "catch ticks" in her backyard...

I do not discount the fears and worries of parents - our world is a dangerous place! Or, at least it can be. One of the great things about D2D is that it gives youth some knowledge and the tools they need to navigate through a number of those fears and dangers in a way that empowers them, instead of doing all the work for them. In my opinion, spending time in nature is a huge part of the way humans learn. It is a way for children to gain confidence, build coordination skills, test the physical capabilities of their own boundaries, and learn what is acceptable socially.

It has been so wonderful watching all of this happening through your stories with the youth from D2D. One of my greatest pleasures in working with this project is seeing the impact it has had on all of our youth participants. The investigations youth do may be directed by them (with guidance, of course), but their passion was sparked by all of our wonderful adult leaders. And I know that many of these youth will grow up with a much larger appreciation for more than just birds or monarchs.

All of their experiences are in no small way thanks to all of you. They will remember what they did with you, their leaders, for the rest of their lives. I have no doubt that when they are older if they are ever asked "How did you know you wanted to do ____?" the answer will lead back to the season(s) they spent with you learning to identify birds and caterpillar instars, the investigations they developed, and the connections they made with their fellow youth, to science, and to nature.

So I and the rest of the D2D team would like to say THANK YOU to all of the adult leaders, past and present, for helping to create these experiences for children.

Katie-Lyn Bunney
Monarchs in the Classroom coordinator

Reminder: Insect Fair deadline Oct. 10

If your group plans to participate in the 2014 Insect Fair this December, the deadline to register is Oct. 10! The D2D team hopes to see all of you there! If you have questions about the Insect Fair or the registration process, please email Katie-Lyn (

The 18th Annual Insect Fair will be on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, at Coffman Memorial Union on the East Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota. Check-in will start at 9 a.m. and the event kicks off at 10 a.m.

What to expect on the eve before the Insect Fair

We will once again be hosting an event for D2D the evening before at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus. The event will be similar to last year: dinner, activities for the youth, and focus groups for the adults.

Katie-Lyn will be in touch with you all in the coming weeks with more details and to start making travel and lodging arrangements for those groups coming from out of state.

Research team updates

We will end this final D2D eZine with a video from Katie Humason's group highlighting their experience this summer. I hope all of our teams had as much fun as Katie's group did!

Thank you everyone for a great summer!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reflecting on the experience...more tools and tricks you can use!

July's eZine included an article highlighting the importance of reflection to build the learning experience of young people in our research groups. This month we'll highlight additional tools to assist you in this vital task! Creating opportunities for young people to reflect on their experiences is a critical component to strengthening program quality, yet this is often the most challenging to implement.

So why is it so hard to do in our programs?
  • We fall into the trap of thinking of reflection as something that can only be done at the end of a program session, and we often run short of time to finish an activity, let alone reflection.
  • Most of us are not taught to be reflective learners nor are young people offered much opportunity to pause and reflect as part of their typical day or out-of-school program schedule.
Let's rethink reflection... see it not as that 'thing' that comes at the end of the activity, but the intentional 'thing' we can do throughout our program time which builds critical thinking skills and creates meaning, value, and wonder in learning. A great resource to help in facilitating this process is the field guide: Questions for guiding experiential learning.

Try a New Tool!

Use tools that reflect multiple intelligences and various learning styles. These resources offer a variety of short, easy-to-use reflection activities:

Four questions to ask yourself

Here are four indicators of youth having opportunity for reflection, based on youth program quality research (Smith, et al., 2013). How would you respond?

  1. Do I use two or more strategies to encourage youth to share what they have done and reflect on their experiences, challenges, accomplishments (e.g., drawing, debriefing activities, use of props or models, using technology)?
  2. Do I create strategies that have youth work together and talk in teams of two, small groups, and large group settings?
  3. Do I circulate and ask youth to talk about their activity or progress as they are working on a project? Do I encourage youth to explain their thinking? Do I ask mostly open-ended questions?
  4. How do I give opportunities for youth to demonstrate how they solved a problem?

Perhaps these questions or one of the tools will spark in you a new way to help young people "make meaning" of their experiences in the outdoors!


Cain, Cummings, Stanchfield (2008). A Teachable Moment - A Facilitator's Guide to Activities for Processing, Debriefing, Reviewing and Reflection. Kendall-Hunt.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Smith, et al., (2013). Program Quality Assessment Handbook-youth version. David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, Forum for Youth Investment. Ypsilanti, MI.

Anne Stevenson, Extension educator & professor
Extension Center for Youth Development

Important dates and reminders

  • Next D2D conference call

    Our next D2D Adult Leader conference call will be on Thurs., Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. This will be your chance to ask any questions of us on how to wrap up your groups if you haven't already, what's coming next for D2D, what to expect at the Insect Fair this year, and let us know how your summers went! The number is 424-203-8075; Passcode: 795878#.

  • Mark your calendar for the Insect Fair

    Save the date: The 18th Annual Insect Fair will take place at Coffman Union on Dec. 6. More information will be coming soon in an email invitation, and D2D specific details will be talked about on the call in September.

  • Send in forms

    Please send in your consent forms, demographic information, attendance sheets and group rosters. They can be mailed to Katie-Lyn at 2003 Upper Buford Circle, 135 Skok Hall, St. Paul, MN 55122, or scanned and emailed to Katie-Lyn ( or Kim (

Research team updates: Team Curious Chickadees

1.jpgTeam Curious Chickadees finished their two week summer intensive summer camp in July and what a whirlwind it was!

Camp kicked off with an ice cream social where the kids drew pictures of their ideal scientists. Those ideal researchers were equipped for anything that nature might throw at them but most importantly they had many tools for observation, recording, analysis and communication so that their results could be validated and shared. After that the students felt well prepared to pack their own tools for the two-week D2D adventure.

Even the parents got into the fun (notice the birds all over Mrs Kimbrough's dress).

2.jpgTwo scientists visited to share their research process. Allyson Kennedy, a developmental biologist, wondered how vitamin A affects the development of a frog's embryos mouth, so the group helped her come up with some hypotheses and more testable questions to explore. Ecologist, Dr Daniel McGarvey, led an exploration of the creek where the group found macro-invertebrates and wondered how different leaf-litter levels might impact their abundance. Everyone learned a lot about aquatic insects but even more about how interconnected all species are in a habitat and how many variables can impact research.

Over the weekend the students were invited to watch bird-banding at the local MAPS station and one of them (now an apprentice-bander) was tasked with keeping the meticulous records of the station that day. They explained that this decade long collection of carefully recorded information could be analyzed to provide a clear picture of bird migration and habitat change at this site.


All of this information and wondering gave the group lots of questions that were refined to create testable research topics during a back-porch roundtable.


The group ended the week by hosting a supply drive for the local wildlife rehabilitators who modeled good presentation skills as they explained the impacts that humans have on birds.


This gave the group confidence to present preliminary results to their teammates and reflect on what they learned.

They will present their research at the Virginia Master Naturalist Convention this fall.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Native Plants + Native Insects = A winning combination

joe-pye-weed.jpgWhile many people might not think much diversity could exist in their small well-manicured lawn or their local park's open space, these spaces actually represent a great opportunity to create insect habitat. By planting native vegetation instead of monocultures or non-native plants, we have a chance to transform these areas into habitat for native insects. Monocultures, such as a typical turfgrass lawn, or spaces with non-native plants don't typically support much insect life. By instead planting native plants that insects have co-evolved with, we can provide a food source for all life-stages of important insects.

Insects are extremely important for our ecosystem, not only for their incredible diversity, beauty, and services such as pollination, but also because they provide a large amount of the world's biomass. Many creatures, ranging from birds to lizards, eat insects, and those creatures are in turn eaten by others. However, in order for there to be insects, they must have a food source. Many insects are specialists that can only feed on a limited number of plant species, typically plants that they have evolved with over long time periods. In addition to serving as a food source and creating native insect habitat, native plants also tend to be adapted for the local climate, meaning that they tend to require less water and maintenance.

While more insect habitat is ideal, even just one or two native plants can make a difference. To start, find out what plants are native in your area. In Minnesota, some of my favorite native plants are liatris, asters, and of course the 13 different MN-native species of milkweed! It is also important to plant native trees, many of which also serve as a host plant for many insects. When purchasing plants, make sure that the plants haven't been treated with systemic pesticides. For more information on the importance of native plants, check out Douglas Tallamy's book "Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants." Good luck and happy planting!

Kelly Nail
University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Tips for taking pictures of your research team

We love seeing and getting pictures of your research team in action! University of Minnesota Extension Communications put together three simple tips for taking great photographs - try these tips for powerful photographs of your monitoring, investigation and teamwork.
  1. Try striving for a candid photograph, where team members are engaged in interaction or tasks at hand. They might be seemingly unaware of the camera or perhaps glancing at it, but most importantly they're captured "in the moment," authentic -- not posed.
  2. Try to get a perspective that is "first person." The goal is for the audience to feel like they're sharing in that moment. Photos of team members/subjects are shot at eye level or from below eye level.
  3. Use natural lighting whenever possible - which is easy to do when you are in the field monitoring birds, water, and monarch larvae!

Help youth scientists reflect on citizen science experiences to ensure they are learning

monarch.pngThe youth scientists in D2D clubs this summer are having great experiences watching birds, searching for monarchs, exploring wetlands, and so much more. These activities are usually fun and inspiring, and with a little facilitation, they can also be powerful learning experiences.

"What?!" you may be thinking. "Of course these are good learning experiences!"

But experiences alone don't automatically lead to learning. It's the reflection on the experience that generates understanding.

If you are familiar with Experiential Learning, you may recall the mantra "Do, Reflect, Apply." These three words are a simple summation of the process of learning from experiences:
  • DO: Have an experience, perform something, try something
  • REFLECT: Talk about the experience with others, describe what happened, analyze the context, actions and outcomes
  • APPLY: Consider how this experience might relate to other experiences in the future, consider what was learned, then apply insights to a new situation.
The D2D curriculum provides a couple resources to foster reflection: The Scientist's Log, the I Wonder board, the Sum It Up page and the "Doing science is like" supplemental activity. Here are a couple more ideas:
  • Rose/Thorn/Bud: At the end of each meeting, conduct a quick round robin discussion in which each youth scientist reports one "Rose" (highlight/what they liked best), one "Thorn" (difficulty/challenge), and one "Bud" (a new idea or skill) from the day.
  • Occasionally use the "Reflect & Rethink" page developed in the first year of the D2D program.
  • If you've done the "What is a scientist?" activity, have the youth do drawings of themselves as scientists...what qualities do they possess that make them scientists?
Here's a reflection idea from D2D club leader Kristi McCullough:

When preparing investigations, hold a "roundtable" in which youth present their research plans to each other. Peers can provide feedback and troubleshoot together. Kristi says this allows youth to sharpen their research skills by analyzing multiple research plans instead of just their own. By doing this throughout the club experience, the youth scientists gain confidence in their science skills and develop ownership in all of the club's projects.

As you hold your club meetings, be sure to allow time for reflection throughout the experience. Ask questions about what the youth say and do during these moments, and listen closely to their answers. As that reflection time helps youth scientists make sense of and learn from the fun and interesting experiences they are having, it will be time well spent!

Andrea Lorek Strauss
Extension educator, Environmental science education
University of Minnesota Extension, Rochester, Minnesota
  1. Deidrick, J., Doering, S., Geiser, D., Kanengieter, H., Piehl, B., Stevenson, A. (2005). Questions for Guiding Experiential Learning: A field guide for adult volunteers, mentors, coaches, fair judges, etc. St. Paul: University of Minnesota Extension.
  2. Knapp, C. (1993). Lasting Lessons: A teacher's guide to reflecting on experience. Charleston, WV: Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Research team updates

This space is for YOU! We will publish exciting news from your research team here, just send any pictures, videos or stories to Katie-Lyn at

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dear 2014 Driven to Discover adult leaders

Welcome to another summer of the D2D eZine! Please use this as a resource to work with the other Driven to Discover Citizen Science teams! This summer we will have fewer issues - only one each month on the last Friday of the month. Each issue will have tips, updates, links and more to help your summer run smoothly. We love to share stories from our participants too, so please send us some pictures, video links, stories, and any questions or comments you may have. Other teams are a great resource too, especially if you are faced with a challenge you're not quite sure how to conquer. Reach out to your peers! They will have plenty to offer.

We hope you have a wonderful summer of citizen science and authentic science inquiry - remember we are here for you!

More monarchs than last year!

monarch.jpgIn June 2013 I wrote an article for this eZine that said "MLMP volunteers all over the U.S. and Canada are seeing very few, if any, monarch adults, eggs, or caterpillars this summer." This year, I'm happy to report that the news is better. While the overwintering population last winter was smaller than ever, and we had low reports out of the south, MLMP volunteers in the upper midwestern U.S. are reporting monarch eggs, larvae and adults. The numbers are lower than average, but still seem to suggest that the population may be rebounding. I'm cautiously optimistic, and send out a sigh of relief and a big "Hurray"! We hope that you're seeing monarchs and other interesting things in your milkweed patches, and that you realize how valuable your data are. Please be sure to report your findings, and check out the data from other MLMP sites throughout the U.S.! Let us know if you have any questions about collecting or reporting data.

While it's hard to find monarch "J's" and pupae in the wild, MLMP volunteer Patti Keiper sent in the above picture of a monarch that was discovered near the Rockford Road Library in Crystal, Minnesota in summer 2012. Unfortunately, a lawn service was about to spray and weed whip baby milkweed plants off the cedar chip bed it was in, but library staff rescued the plant and the monarch, as well as other larvae in the bed.

Karen Oberhauser
University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Asking great questions propels inquiry

"What's in a question, you ask? question-mark-graphic.jpgEverything. It is a way of evoking stimulating response or stultifying inquiry. It is, in essence, the very core of teaching."
- John Dewey, education philosopher.

Experienced leaders use and create a variety of good questions throughout the summer to propel their team members into the inquiry flow. According to a summary of research by Patricia E. Blosser, questions serve a variety of important roles in effective science education:
  • Provoking interest in a topic or idea;
  • Stimulating thinking about information and issues;
  • Helping learners develop a certain mind-set;
  • Reinforcing information and ideas; and
  • Managing activities and learner behavior.
Try to ask open-ended and thought-provoking questions that serve a specific purpose.

An educator may ask learners hundreds of questions in the course of teaching. But studies consistently find that they predominately ask learners closed-ended, low-order questions - questions that require learners to recall memorized correct answers. You can improve your teaching by asking more focused, open-ended, and thought-provoking questions. Try the following with youth on your research teams:
  1. Focus your questions. Keep in mind the authentic inquiry process at the heart of D2D: observing and wondering, sparking provocative questions, formulating hypotheses and investigation, analyzing results and generating conclusions. Where are your team members in their inquiry process? Where will they flow next? Use questions to propel them there.
  2. Know why you are asking each and every question. Will your question provoke learners' interest in what comes next? Will it reinforce key ideas or skills? Will it encourage youth members to further analyze or synthesize the topic? Visit the Questioning Toolkit in the From Now On journal for examples of questions that serve a variety of important purposes.
  3. Make sure your questions target a variety of learning-levels. Do you ask your team members to demonstrate, construct, calculate, diagram, or predict? Bloom's Taxonomy defines six different levels of intellectual behavior, each with "action verbs" you can use in writing questions for team meetings. Low-order questions ask learners to recall information or reproduce skills from memory. "Who can show me the first step in properly filling in our data sheet?" exemplifies a low-order question. High-order questions prompt learners to interpret, analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply ideas and skills in new situations. "How did you decide that this is the best way to graph your data?" or "What are the strengths and weaknesses of this study design to compare bird species in our wetland and prairie sites?" are both high-order questions. Low-order questions are great for reinforcing ideas or managing activities. High-order questions are usually better suited to provoke or stimulate critical thinking, and help youth make connections.
  4. Make sure your questions have an appropriate structure. Open-ended questions are broad in nature with many potential and varied answers. E.g. "How could you design a form to collect information about tachnid wasps at our site? What about spiders?" Alternatively, closed-ended questions are limited to one or a few specific "correct" answers. E.g. "Who can tell me if this is a robin call?" Closed-ended questions are good for reinforcing information and ideas, stimulating recall, or managing activities. Open-ended questions serve well to provoke and stimulate critical thinking.
Many resources describe how to deliver questions effectively. Developing Questioning Skills by Karron Lewis offers practical suggestions. Above all, encourage students to risk answering your questions. Say things like "I am looking for an adventurous person to tackle this question..." or "Can someone take a shot at answering this question?" Let your team members know when you don't expect them to know a predetermined answer but are seeking thoughtful guesses or reflections. And, of course, resist the urge to answer your own questions. Instead, allow at least a few seconds for youth to think about your question before rephrasing.

Well planned and delivered questions will help you keep your team members in the flow of inquiry. In the words of Cathleen Galas: "A good question leads to more new questions, new discoveries, new realms never even considered before....Teachers should share the excitement of asking questions and finding answers to personally relevant questions."

Nathan Meyer
Center for Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota Extension

This article was adapted from the EE E-Tip for Field Days.


Bloom, B. et al. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook 1. Cognitive Domain. New York: D. McKay.

Blosser, P.E. (1990). Using questions in science classrooms. Research Matters - To the Science Teacher, No. 9001. Online at

Galas, C. (1999). The never ending story: Questioning strategies for the information age. Learning and Leading, 25(7).

Lewis, K.G. (1999). Developing questioning skills. Section 5. Teachers and Students: A Sourcebook for UT-Austin Faculty. The University of Texas at Austin Center for Teaching Effectiveness..

McComas, W.F., & Abraham, L. (n.d.). Asking More Effective Questions.

N.A. (1997). A questioning toolkit. From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal, 7(3). Online at

Remember to send us your pictures, videos, stories, questions and more!

We love seeing pictures of your research team in action! We especially want to see candid moments, where team members are engaged in interaction or tasks at hand. They might be seemingly unaware of the camera or perhaps glancing at it, but most importantly they're captured "in the moment," authentic -- not posed. Also, think about lighting when you're snapping away. Put the sun at the photographer's back and try to avoid deep shadows on the subject matter. These photos are fun to see, and also help us when it comes time to develop presentations and reports about the project. E-mail pictures to Katie-Lyn Bunney at
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