Why do we need YLACES?
Democracy in the 21st Century requires a citizenry prepared to ask good questions and use data to make well-reasoned choices about issues confronting society. The path to acquiring this ability 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, detailed observations are needed to build more robust datasets and models to guide decision-making. By participating in environmental citizen science, youth can help meet this need, and they love the chance to contribute to the grown-up world and be of value while they learn and mature. Today, affordable, consumer friendly technologies such as smart phones and 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 areas. By contributing to the creation of a young army of scientific observers, YLACES will extend the reach of professional research and monitoring systems including 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 in formal and informal learning situations to do research projects. There are a host of motivations for investigating the environment.
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 taking advantage of their desire to make meaningful contributions to our knowledge of Earth and the systems that comprise it.
Students are encouraged to go beyond observing to doing research projects and experiencing the scientific method. YLACES sponsors Student Reearch Colloquia where students complete the research process by presenting their resuts and learning from peer and professional comments on their work. This also rewards students by givoing them a chance to be part of a community of fellow learners.
YLACES also funds creative ideas and systemic initiatives to help adding student research to science instruction, recognizes sustained contributions to youth doing environmental science through the annual awards of the YES Medal and grant, and advocating for youth learning science by doing science.
Youth Learning 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.