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November 2009  |  Return to issue home

SoundCitizen: Where Urban Communities & Academia Meet

The UW Institute for Science and Math Education has been awarded a new grant from the National Science Foundation program "Opportunities for Expanding Diversity in the Geosciences." The SoundCitizen Science Apprenticeship (SCSA) program will support high school-aged youth from groups that are underrepresented in the sciences to explore ocean sciences, to engage with the UW science mentors, and to develop skills and relationships that can help them into higher education. The SCSA is a partnership of the UW Institute for Science and Mathematics Education, UW Ocean Sciences, and two Seattle-based youth-serving outdoor education groups, Passages Northwest and YMCA’s Boys Outdoor Leadership and Development. 

The project builds upon SoundCitizen, an ongoing participatory science effort housed in Rick Keil’s (UW ocean sciences) lab.  SoundCitizen has been quite successful in engaging middle-aged volunteers in collecting water samples, which are used in ocean science research on land-water interactions. SCSA is an effort to bring this project to youth and build upon the SoundCitizen program in important ways. 

SCSA takes the unique step of rooting the scientific research in the expressed environmental concerns of youth apprentices and the people who live in their local communities. Thus, in addition to doing data collection and analysis that will help answer scientists’ questions, apprentices are trained to ask family members, friends and civic leaders, "what do you want to know about the rain, riverine and drinking water in our community?" This is a step that can lead quickly to important links between human behavior and environmental health, and something that project developers Keil, Philip Bell, and Andrew Shouse see as critical to helping young people, especially those from underrepresented groups, develop their interest in science.

Another novel aspect of SCSA is that it supports youth in the full spectrum of scientific inquiry. SCSA apprentices will not only collect data, but also pose questions, carry out analyses in the lab and disseminate their findings to scientists and their communities. SCSA facilitates doing research for multiple audiences by having scientists and apprentices use a common water sampling technology, and work collaboratively in the lab and in the community. The collaboration will yield scientific publications and youth-led science communication events for community members. This project is in year one of a two-year pilot phase and will ultimately serve as a rich context for learning sciences graduate students and faculty to carry out research.

November 2009  |  Return to issue home

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