Common Sense Review
Updated February 2015


Good choices abound in sprawling citizen science project database
Visit Website
Common Sense Rating 2
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • From the homepage, users can use the “project finder” to search by activity or topic, or try “Our picks for classrooms.”
  • Activity lists (here: at school) include hundreds of options, each with a brief description.
  • Blog articles (wordy, yet relevant) provide classroom info and NGSS/CCSS connections for a few of posted projects.
  • The Lost Ladybug project is one of the site’s highlights for elementary school classrooms.
  • NASA’s “Be a Martian” project is one of the site’s picks for HS classrooms.
The site has an impressive list of citizen science projects, and a (very) few come connected to NGSS practices and CCSS.
There’s a big need for curated lists, improved search options, and at-a-glance information that will help educators make decisions quickly.
Bottom Line
A good database of valuable projects, but better search features would make a big difference.
Christie Thomas
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 2
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 2

Observe weather, hunt bugs, play games -- these intriguing citizen science projects span topics, types, and ages. Site design could be improved with more at-a-glance project info and more functional search options or curated lists.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Projects support student learning, but just five include teaching info, so making connections is largely left up to teachers. The "teaching materials available" search query is non-responsive.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

The project finder may disappoint users (especially teachers) hoping for more specificity. Others will wonder about activity choices (at sports stadiums?). Further, the organization and relevance of results is unclear.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers may want to start with the small red “our picks for classrooms” link from the homepage. This section of the site provides a brief (and helpful) background to citizen science newbies, and it also features a handful of selections for elementary, middle, and high school students. Realize, though, that the site doesn’t describe its selection criteria, and some of the projects (Bumble Bee Watch) actually note that they are not kid-appropriate!

Use keywords for the most productive searching. Making observations of local plants and animals, as well collecting weather data, are great choices for elementary and MS. Student data merges with larger pools, aiding in pattern identification. High school teachers will be able to find many mid-level and advanced projects -– especially in digital analyses and cellular research. Bear in mind that the site hosts topics for all ages, so select projects for kids or have them clear their choices with you.

Read More Read Less
What's It Like?

SciStarter is a database of citizen science projects, some of which may work with kids and in classrooms. Accounts don’t provide features (like favorites), but they aren’t needed to view project details (though having one makes for fewer clicks). From the homepage, users will see rotating “projects of the day,” as well as the “project finder,” which provides choices by activity (on a hike) or topic (birds). Advanced and keyword searches are also available.

Results are provided in one long list, with brief project descriptions and pictures. Clicking on an option takes users to a project page with a short synopsis and specifics like cost, location, and required gear. Note that project sponsors, not the SciStarter site, input all project details, and that some activity dates have passed. Links take the user to the project website for more information and opportunities to join in.

Read More Read Less
Is It Good For Learning?

Citizen science projects are an authentic avenue for kids of all ages to truly engage in scientific practices. For a few (5) of the myriad projects posted on this site, a detailed write-up of classroom applications (including online safety) and correlations with NGSS and CCSS has been created. This information supports teachers trying to determine which projects will work with their students, and it definitely enhances the learning opportunities.

With its significant database, SciStarter is poised to boost classroom use of citizen science projects. It can fulfill this task by creating curated lists, expanding educational connections, and renovating to an at-a-glance design. Teachers will then be able to find more of their classroom questions answered before going on to a project’s site.

Read More Read Less

See how teachers are using SciStarter

Lesson Plans