Citizen science initiative for schools: EDU-ARCTIC monitoring of meteorological and phenological parameters
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Citizen science is sometimes described as "public participation in scientific research," or participatory monitoring. Such initiatives help to bring research into, for example, the classroom and engage pupils in well-structured observations of nature in their vicinity. The learning and practising of observation may increase the understanding of complex conditions occurring in nature, related to biology, ecology, ecosystems functioning, physics, atmospheric chemistry etc. For school curricula and motivation of pupils, practical hands-on activities performed by school pupils themselves by using their own senses stimulate faster learning and cognition. For this, the EDU-ARCTIC project developed the Monitoring System. All schools in Europe are invited to participate in a meteorological and phenological observation system in the schools’ surroundings, to report these observations on the web-portal and to have access to all the accumulated data. The schools and pupils become part of a larger citizen effort to gain a holistic understanding of global environmental issues. The students may learn to act as scientific eyes and ears in the field. No special equipment is needed. Reporting of observations should be made once a week in the Monitoring System through the EDU–ARCTIC web-portal or the accompanying mobile app. A manual and a field guide on how to conduct observations and report are available through the web. Teachers may download reports containing gathered information and use them for a wide variety of subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. Meteorological parameters are requested reported as actual values: air temperature, cloud cover, precipitation, visibility reduction and wind force, in all 19 parameters. It is also asking for reports on meteorological and hydrological phenomena, which occurred within the previous week: like lightning, extreme and other atmospheric phenomena, ice on lakes and rivers and snow cover, in all 23 parameters. The Monitoring System also includes biological field observations of phenological phases of plants, like birch, lilac, bilberry in all 26 parameters. The occurrence of the first individual of five species of insects like Bumblebee, Mosquito, Ant and butterfly, and then registration of the first appearance of the bird species: Arctic tern, Common Cuckoo, White wagtail and Crane. An app for the Monitoring System has been developed in order to engage pupils more by making it more comprehensive to register the meteorology and the phenophases. Further, special webinars and Polarpedia (the project’s own online encyclopedia) entries are developed to strengthen the Monitoring System. The EDU-ARCTIC Monitoring System gathered more than 2000 reports from schools, with an average monthly number of more than 80 observations. They are freely available via the web-portal, but password access is needed in order to enter registrations and data.