Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science

September 1st, 2009 - August 31st, 2014 | PROJECT

The University of Minnesota is partnering with several nature centers in the Midwest to transform citizen "technicians" into citizen "scientists." The Driven to Discover project will use existing citizen science programs with strong educational components to engage 12-14 year old youth and their adult mentors in authentic research. The goal of the project is to develop a training model for adults who work with youth in a variety of informal education settings to involve them in authentic scientific inquiry via citizen science rather than just data collection activities. In the proof-of-concept phase, teams consisting of 4-H youth, adult leaders, and several scientists are conducting participatory action research to understand what factors lead youth to full engagement in ecological research. In phase two, project personnel are training 4-H educators, naturalists, and teachers how to engage youth and their adult leaders in other 4-H programs and other informal education programs to conduct ecological research with scientists in advisory roles. Phase one involves approximately 10 adults and 70 youth, whereas phase two involves approximately 40 adults and 300 youth. A front-end study defined the project's target audiences and partners. Formative evaluation study will monitor interactions among members of the research teams and summative evaluation will measure impacts on participants' knowledge, skills development, attitudes, and behavior. Project deliverables include youth-generated ecological research findings, web-based program implementation materials, an annual conference, and a model for engaging youth groups in informal settings in authentic scientific inquiry. The model is expected to impact more than six million youth nationwide.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products
Poster: Citizen Science Sparks Independent Scientific Investigations
Driven to Discover Summative Evaluation Report

Team Members

Karen Oberhauser, Principal Investigator, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Nathan Meyer, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Andrea Lorek Strauss, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Minnesota Extension
Pamela Nippolt, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Minnesota Extension
Katie Clark, Co-Principal Investigator
Robert Blair, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 0917450
Funding Amount: 242430


Audience: Adults | Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Citizen Science Programs | Public Programs