Purpose: Explore how scientists solve problems as you create a
field guide about your environment. Then, find out how you can help
real scientists with their research!
Set-Up: Scientists study nature and conduct research to better
understand how it works. They use what they learn to create solutions
that help people, animals, and the environment. To learn new things
and do research, scientists use a process called the scientific method.
Citizen science is when a scientist asks regular citizens to help
with their research. It’s a way for everyday people to help scientists
Activity: To get started, gather a few sheets of blank paper, a
pencil, and some markers or colored pencils. You’ll also need a set of
“field tools” to help you to take field notes about your environment.
You might want to include tools you have around the house, like a
ruler, magnifying glass, camera, and thermometer.
Part 1: Make observations about your environment.
Observation is watching and noticing something using all of your
senses, especially sight. Observations are a type of data. Data simply
means information. It can be notes, drawings, photos, recordings or
videos of what you see and hear.
Start by taking a minute to make some observations about your
environment (the world around you!).
If you can, go outside, but it’s alright if you’re indoors—there are
still plenty of things to observe! Walk around and explore your
surroundings. With your pencil and paper, collect data by writing or
drawing what you observe. Make sure to add lots of detail to your
data, like information about size, quantity , or color. If you have
questions about what you’re observing, write them down, too!
Part 2: Form scientific questions and hypotheses.
As scientists collect data, they ask scientific questions about
their observations. Once scientists have a scientific question, they
make an educated guess, or form a hypothesis, about what they think
the answer is. The hypothesis can be tested to see what parts (if any)
can be confirmed.
Once you have some observations, choose your 3 most interesting and
form 2 scientific questions for each. If you’re wondering if your
question is scientific, ask yourself: Is this testable? How could I
find an answer? What experiment or test could I conduct?
Then, choose one question that: 1) you’re interested in trying to
answer through more observation, and 2) you could collect data and
Finally, look back are your scientific question: what’s your
hypothesis? Use what you already know or can reason to answer your
Part 3: Add detail to your data.
Next, see if you can confirm your hypothesis by observing your
subject once more.
Use your set of “field tools” to add details about what your subject
looks like, how big it is, what it sounds like, or how many you see.
For example, you might use a ruler to measure the distance between two
objects or a camera instead of sketching.
Part 4: Create a field guide.
When scientists come back from the field, they review their notes to
make sure they’re detailed and think their data means. Thinking about
and understanding data is called data analysis. Scientists might
compare what they saw with other data, find a way to present it (like
a graph, chart, etc.), or look at their data and decide they need to
So, use your data to create a field guide page about your
subject! Include information like your subject’s name (if you know or
can identify it), a picture or drawing, its defining characteristics,
how you encountered the subject, and any other observations you think
Once you’re done with your first field page, you can create more to
tell others the story of your environment.
Optional Part 5: Participate in a citizen science project.
Now you know about the scientific method, but what can you do next?
Become a citizen scientist!
To help you get started, Girl Scouts of the USA has partnered
with SciStarter to offer Girl Scouts and volunteers a special portal
to find and track citizen science projects.
SciStarter has almost 3,000 citizen science projects to choose
from—and the dashboards include several citizen science projects that
are well suited for Girl Scouts. There are projects that can be done
in any season!
You can participate in Globe Observer from NASA and collect data
about clouds, identify plants in your background with iNaturalist, or
play an online game called StallCatchers to help with Alzheimer’s
research. Whatever part of nature you’re interested in, there’s a
citizen project for you!
Check out the “How to Use SciStarter Guide” for more information on
citizen science projects and SciStarter.
And that’s it! You’ve completed part of the Cadette Think Like a
Citizen Scientist Journey! If you had fun doing this, you might want
to participate in a citizen science project or Take Action with the
rest of the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey.