YLACES is an advocate for the inclusion of student research in all science education. To learn science,
Why do we need YLACES?
Democracy in the 21st Century requires a citizenry prepared to ask questions and use data to make well-reasoned choices about the issues confronting society. The path to acquiring this skill goes beyond learning scientific facts and conducting previously documented laboratory experiments, to acquiring scientific habits of mind through doing hands-on, observational research. YLACES works to enable and promote the inclusion of student research in science education.
Why focus on youth?
Young minds need to experience the scientific approach of developing hypotheses, taking careful, reproducible measurements, and reasoning with data. Inquiries should begin early and grow in quality and sophistication as learners progress in literacy, numeracy, and understanding social interactions and society. In addition to fostering critical thinking skills, active engagement in scientific research at an early age also builds skills in mathematics and communications
Why focus on the environment?
To understand our changing environment, frequent, detailed observations are needed to build robust datasets and models to guide decision-making. By participating in environmental citizen science, youth can help meet this need, and they appreciate the chance to contribute to the scientific community while they learn and mature. Today, affordable, consumer-friendly technologies such as smart phones, hand-held GPS devices, and inexpensive scientific instruments allow individual citizen scientists to contribute meaningful, reliable environmental measurements. This capability is already demonstrated in bird watching, stream monitoring, and the GLOBE Program among other intiatives. By contributing to the creation of a young army of scientific observers, YLACES extends the reach of professional research and monitoring systems such as NASA and NOAA satellites.
The environment offers a wealth of topics appropriate for student research including ones comprehensible by young students. The means are available and readily affordable for youth to participate in both formal and informal learning situations to do research projects.
YLACES makes grants of equipment, materials, and supplies to those engaging youth in environmental citizen science taking and reporting data for scientific use. This initiates students in doing science as well as taking advantage of their desire to make meaningful contributions to our knowledge of the Earth and its systems.
Students are encouraged to go beyond observing to doing research projects and experiencing the scientific method. YLACES sponsors Student Research Symposia where students complete the research process by presenting their results and learning from peer and professional feedback on their work. This also rewards students by giving them a chance to be part of a community of fellow learners.
YLACES also funds creative ideas and systemic initiatives to incorporate student research into science instruction, recognizes sustained contributions to youth doing environmental science through the annual awards of the YES Medal and accompanying grant and advocating for youth learning science by doing science.
YLACES works in partnership with others seeking to advance a vision of effective science education and give voice to the communities and organizations that implement youth learning through environmental citizen science.