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Floating Forests Comes to the Classroom!

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since our last update but we want to share some exciting new developments. 

One thing that we frequently get asked is how Floating Forests can be used as a classroom activity. In the past, we haven’t had a particularly structured response; most classroom integration of Floating Forests has been case by case and informal. While there is certainly great value in self-motivated exploration, tools like Floating Forests really shine when they are presented alongside the background and context that allows participants to more deeply connect with what they are seeing.

In order to close this gap and learn about how we can better incorporate citizen science into the classroom, Zooniverse has collaborated with project scientists to create structured lab activities that give students a chance to learn about projects on a higher level. We are very excited to announce that Floating Forests was one of those projects, and our activity has been released! Check it out here on the Zooniverse classrooms page! While you’re there, feel free to look around some of the other projects as well: here is a top-level link.

This activity was initially developed for undergraduates in general education science courses, but it is appropriate for any undergraduate environmental science (or similar) course, and should be easily adaptable for high school or middle school. If you are a K12 educator and you have any interest in such an adaptation, PLEASE REACH OUT via email at this link – we would love an opportunity to expand this content!

The activity itself can be found here, and is suitable for most course formats, including virtual or asynchronous learning. It has three sections: 1) climate change background, 2) an introduction to Floating Forests, and 3) several case studies that present data generated by citizen scientists on Floating Forests in the context of climate change. 

Example figure from our activity. This graph depicts kelp coverage in Tasmania, Australia as classified by Floating Forests participants. Students are also provided with additional data about kelp life history, as well as a temperature record of the local area and tasked with elucidating how kelp coverage and water temperature are related. 

Although we hope folks pick up some concrete knowledge about climate change and kelp, the true goal of this activity is to foster scientific self-efficacy, data literacy, and self-confidence that will allow participants to be more self-sufficient with regard to scientific topics in our modern lives. We do this by presenting information in several ways including text, graphs, maps, and hypothetical debates. We also emphasize topics that are transferable out of environmental science, such as thinking at multiple scales and recognizing (and articulating) patterns in graphs. 

This activity is free to use and has been pilot tested by over 1000 students at 6 universities: based on our evaluations, we are confident that it is a positive experience for our participants.  We’ve received a lot of great feedback so far but that said, we are always happy to hear from anyone who gives it a try! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns!

Mrs. Wilson’s 2nd Graders Talk Kelp – Floating Forests in the Classroom!

One of the things we love about Floating Forests is how simple it is, making it a great tool for classrooms. Just circle some kelp! And after only a few images, one begins to get a sense of some basic kelp biology – it’s close to the coast in shallow waters, we see less of it in the middle of winter, in some places we see less of it in later years than earlier.

This simplicity beguiles a wealth of concepts both simple and complex. One can use Floating Forests as a tool to teach basic environmental biology, population dynamics, or the ecology of climate change. Or one can use Floating Forests as a jumping off point for a classroom of kids interested in the ocean.

We’ve been lucky enough to start to interact with some great educators. We’re hoping to begin posting lesson plans for levels from elementary schools to college over at Zooteach. Here’s one of the first pieces to emerge from Fran Wilson’s wonderful 2nd grade class!