Anyone Can Be A Scientist: Celebrating Citizen Science Month

April 2021 is Citizen Science Month! What is citizen science? Citizen science connects scientists and everyday people to help accelerate research and discovery. Essentially, citizen science is scientific research anyone can conduct in order to help real-life scientists. This could be from finding local ways to make a difference in protecting endangered species, to safeguarding water sources, to preventing disease, and more! Science needs more eyes, ears, and perspectives than any scientist possesses. Citizen science is an invitation to everyone to participate in real science on topics they care about. This month, we’ve put together a list of children’s books that shed light on how curious, motivated children can make a difference in science, as well a few resources to help with your citizen science curiosities and projects! Learn more about citizen science and how you can celebrate in April here:

Stemple, Heidi E.Y.
Illustrated by: Clover Robin
Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends. 2018 (Nonfiction Picture Book).
What can you do to help endangered animals and make a positive change in our environment? Get counting! In this picture book, kids are introduced to the idea of bird counts and bird watches. Along the way they will learn about Frank Chapman, who used his bird knowledge to initiate the first annual bird count. Bird counting helps professional researchers collect data, share expertise, and spread valuable information to help all kinds of birds around the world. Counting Birds introduces kids to a whole feathered world that will fascinate and inspire them to get involved and become citizen scientists.
S.598.07234 St41co

Brown, Peter
The Curious Garden. 2009 (Picture Book).
While out exploring one day, Liam discovers a struggling garden — the only plant life in the city. Liam decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world. With environmental themes and a garden that has a personality of its own, this picture book will teach children to protect nature and maybe even inspire them to create their own little garden.
Q. SE. B812cu

Burns, Loree Griffin
Illustrated by: Ellen Harasimowicz
Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard. 2012 (Children’s Nonfiction).
Anyone can get involved in gathering data for ongoing, actual scientific studies such as the Audubon Bird Count and FrogWatch USA! Just get out into a field, urban park, or your own backyard. This book will teach kids to put their nose to a monarch pupa or listen for raucous frog calls, to tally woodpeckers or sweep the grass for ladybugs, and much more. Citizen Scientists explains how kids can make a real, substantial difference in the world of science.
Q. S.590.723 B9675c

Cousteau, Phillipe and Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by: Meilo So
Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles. 2016 (Nonfiction Picture Book).
Meet Viv, who has a new home and a new school by the sea. Inspired by her teacher, Viv and her classmates are looking for a problem to solve, and Viv soon discovers the body of a baby turtle facing away from the sea during a visit to the beach. She then does some research, and Viv figures out the lights from the beach houses are putting the turtles in danger and confusing their natural instincts. With her classmates’ help, Viv works to get the message out to the community to turn off lights at night to save the turtles. This picture book of environmental action, community, and friendship takes children on a journey of activism and how kids can help using science.
Q. S.597.928 C8369f

Forrest, Time and Jen Hamel
Bug Camp: Where Every Day’s an Adventure. 2016 (Middle Grade).
This book is a culmination of the authors’ decades of experience with bug camps, creating a resource filled with games, experiments, cool facts, and stories. Discover insect mouth parts that chew, siphon, pierce, and absorb and antennae that smell and hear. Learn how to identify crickets and katydids from their songs and how to find firefly signals and honeybee waggle dances. Collect caterpillars and watch them morph into butterflies and moths. Go on scavenger hunts to find cool predators, prey, and parasites. Conduct experiments and collect citizen science data. With hundreds of insect photos from around the world and millions of real insects in every neighborhood, kids will be able to become scientist themselves from their own backyard.
S.595.7 F7706b

Forrester, Anna
Illustrated by: Susan Detwiler
Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story. 2017 (Picture Book).
Jojo is prepping for an exciting night: it’s time for the bat count! Bats have always been a welcome presence during the summers in the family barn. But over the years, the numbers have dwindled as many bats in the area caught white-nose syndrome. Jojo and her family count the bats and send the numbers to scientists who study bats, to see if the bat population can recover. On a summer evening, the family quietly makes their way to the lawn to watch the sky and count the visitors to their farm. Follow Jojo and her family as they participate in their own citizen science project!
SE. F7707b

Kamkwamba, William
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. 2015 (Nonfiction Middle Grade).
When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. Near starvation and forced to drop out of school, William began to explore science books in his small village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.
SB. K156k2015
Note: This story is also available as a nonfiction picture book for younger readers under the same title. Q. SB. K156b

Sidman, Joyce
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science. 2018 (Middle Grade Biography).
Bugs, of all kinds, were considered to be “born of mud” and to be “beasts of the devil.” Why would anyone, let alone a girl, want to study and observe them? One of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly, Maria Sibylla Merian was also one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly. With quotes and illustrations from Maria Merian herself, this story tells the tale of one of the first female entomologists, and a woman who flouted convention in the pursuit of knowledge and her passion for insects.
S.595.7092 Si139gi


Looking for a citizen science project in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, or Ohio? Check out the annual bee spotting project that typically occurs in early June each year. BeeSpotter is a web-based portal at the University of Illinois for learning about honey bees and bumble bees and for contributing data to a nationwide effort to collect baseline information on population status of these insects.
This is an official government website designed to accelerate the use of citizen science across the U.S. government. Here, you can view current projects and utilize citizen science toolkits that provide five basic process steps for planning, designing, and carrying out a citizen science project to help federal employees. These toolkits also have case studies, models, and other resources, including success stories and some of the challenges that developers faced in designing and carrying out citizen science projects.

Common Sense Education: Real-World Science Resources for Students
It’s important for students to see how science works out in the real world, beyond the limits of classrooms and textbooks, and Common Sense Education has put together a list of websites and apps to help with this. Some of the tools on the list get students observing the behavior of animals on a webcam, listening to and analyzing the sounds of whales, watching the stars in the sky, and identifying plant or animal species — executing citizen science projects of their own.

SciGirls: Citizen Science Fun for All! (PBS)
This helpful tool can aid in picking projects for you and your little one to do. With user-friendly drop-down menus, you can pick an activity, topic, and use keywords to search through the SciStarter database and pick a citizen science project to fill your kids’ day.