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  • This unit plan shows how teacher Carol Brieseman used the online citizen science (OCS) project Identify New Zealand Animals to offer her students another way of developing their understanding about the skills scientists use while also letting them engage in a real-life investigation. Although this OCS project has been completed, several similar projects exist – see our citizen science landing page.

    Students first learned about ecosystems and the interactions of species within an ecosystem. They used a food web activity to develop this learning. Next, they explored the impacts of pest species in their local area and became involved with their local Pest Free Tawa programme. This saw them placing tracking tunnels around the school and documenting the types and numbers of pests in their own school environment.

    With a focus on the science capabilities ‘Gather and interpret data’ and ‘Engage with science’, students were given opportunities to make accurate observations and to link their own engaging in science (through participating and contributing in Pest Free Tawa) with the wider world of scientists. To do this, Carol used the OCS project Identify New Zealand Animals. As this project was based in Wellington, Carol’s students were able to meet the scientist who had set up this project. Through this experience, they learned a lot about some of the skills and attributes of scientists.

    Read more about Carol’s experiences implementing the unit in this case study.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    See the article Invasive animals in cities for additional information on this project and the outcomes.

    A central part of this OSC project was the importance of using and training artificial intelligence.

    Read about students taking action for bird conservation in the Connected article Bringing back the birdsong.

    Activity ideas

    Can we make New Zealand pest-free? is a series of lesson plans that involve students in the quest to conserve our native species.

    In the activity Making a tracking tunnel, students monitor the presence of pest species in a neighbouring gully or their school grounds.

    Careful observation is an important part of science, as outlined in the activity Observation: learning to see.

    Citizen science projects

    Explore the projects listed in the Citizen science section (a couple of examples are below), find one that sparks an interest or is local and see these tips for planning your science programme.

    Professional learning development webinars

    In our Online citizen science webinar, Carol Brieseman shares her experiences using online citizen science projects in the classroom.

    The recorded webinars Taking action for conservation, Pest detectives and Eco-explorers can help teachers scaffold student learning opportunities and ecological investigations.

    Useful links

    In this recorded webinar from NZ Predator Free, listen to Al Glen from Manaaki Whenua discussing using cameras and how they ‘trained’ computer models to improve accuracy – using artificial intelligence (AI). He also covers other emerging developments, such as thermal cameras and ‘smart traps’.

    In May 2022, the report Artificial intelligence for the environment in Aotearoa New Zealand was published.

    Visit the Department of Conservation website animal pests section.

    For more information about identifying tracks of different pest species, visit the Bionet website.

    Use the Pest Detective online guide to help identify the signs left by pest animals.

    In this Eco Memory game, learn how animals are tracked and which tracks belong to each animal, then play the online memory game to match each animal with their correct footprints.

    Check out the large collection of citizen science resources that we have curated in this Pinterest board.

    Find out more about Pest Free Tawa.

    Visit the online OCS project Identify New Zealand Animals on Zooniverse.


    Carol was a teacher researcher in the education research project Citizen Scientists in the Classroom funded through the Ministry of Education’s Teaching & Learning Research Initiative. Read about some of the research outcomes in Using the Web for Science in the Classroom: Online Citizen Science Participation in Teaching and Learning.

      Published 29 October 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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