Going Squirrelly: Evaluating Educational Outcomes of a Curriculum-aligned Citizen Science Investigation of Non-native Squirrels

Spicer, Heather E. and Nadolny, Daniel and Fraser, Erin (2020) Going Squirrelly: Evaluating Educational Outcomes of a Curriculum-aligned Citizen Science Investigation of Non-native Squirrels. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 5 (1). ISSN 2057-4991

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We report on the educational outcomes of the Newfoundland Squirrel Project (NSP), a citizen science project conducted by schoolchildren in Newfoundland, Canada. The NSP was developed with the charitable organization Let’s Talk Science (LTS), and involved students surveying non-native red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) using silent observation, call broadcasts, and interviews of the general public. We aimed to (1) provide equitable access to this science outreach opportunity for classes across rural Newfoundland, regardless of remote location; (2) evaluate the likelihood that participants would have firsthand encounters with live animals; and (3) investigate changes in students’ perceptions that participation in science satisfies the psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which are all components of motivation. We further tested whether these changes correlated with changes in enjoyment of and future intentions towards participating in science. The proportion of participating schools classified as rural did not differ from that of all Newfoundland schools, suggesting that rurality did not impede participation. Participants commonly encountered squirrels. There were limited changes in participants’ perceptions of science as satisfying psychological needs. Increases in perceived science competence predicted increases in future intentions to participate in science. We conclude that aligning the NSP with the school curriculum was an effective way to deliver science outreach to students in rural environments and that squirrel surveys provide an impactful experience, as participants often closely encounter these animals. We recommend further research exploring how participation in citizen science impacts participant perceptions of science competence and pursuit of future science activities.

Item Type: Article
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/14779
Item ID: 14779
Additional Information: Memorial University Open Access Author's Fund
Keywords: elementary school students, motivation, Newfoundland, science outreach, rural, squirrel surveys
Department(s): Grenfell Campus > School of Arts and Social Science
Date: 2020
Date Type: Publication
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.275
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