Part of the Citizen Science Association Conference, March 13-17, 2019. RCC 303 1:45pm Impacts of the Candid Critters Project on Students’ Environmental Literacy and Science Efficacy » Steven Jackson, Elijah Fry, Kyle Bambard, Lincoln Larson, Stephanie Schuttler, Ann May, Kathryn Stevenson, Caren Cooper, Roland Kays
Citizen science has the capacity to inspire participants to interact with nature and partake in conservation activities while fostering scientific and environmental learning, yet few studies have systematically explored these outcomes. In North Carolina, the Candid Critters project (http://www.nccandidcritters.org/), an offshoot of the successful eMammal camera trapping citizen science platform, has a unique capacity to serve as a wildlife education and outreach tool – particularly for middle school students. To maximize these potential learning outcomes, our team of educators and researchers at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and NC State University developed an inquiry-driven, standards-based, mini-curriculum to accompany the project (i.e., Candid Critters in the Classroom).
During Spring 2018, teachers in about 20 diverse 5th-8th grade classrooms across the state implemented lessons associated with this curriculum, which included contributing camera trap data to Candid Critters. Using pre- and post-project surveys with participating students, we assessed the impact of participation on a variety of outcome variables including environmental literacy (comprised of environmental knowledge, hope, and cognitive skills) and science efficacy. Over 1,000 pre-project surveys were collected prior to implementation of the 4-6 week Candid Critters it the Classroom project. Students in classrooms who completed three or more of the Candid Critters lessons (including photo uploading and identification) were assigned to the treatment group (n = 450). Students in classrooms who completed two or fewer lessons and did not upload any photos were assigned to the control group (n = 350).
Data collection and analysis will be complete before the CSA conference, but preliminary results suggest that Candid Critters participation increased students’ interest and animals, knowledge about wild animals, and desire to protect wild animals relative to the control group. Ongoing analyses will examine the project’s potential impacts on environmental knowledge (measured using actual end-of-grade science test questions) and science efficacy. Results should highlight the broader benefits of citizen science participation for youth and identify specific aspects of the project and associated curriculum that contributed to key learning outcomes.