What is Citizen Science – a reading intensive lesson

What does it mean when you put these two words together: ‘citizen’ and ‘scientist’? What does the term ‘citizen science’ mean?

Take your students on a reading journey through the history of citizen science and explore how everyday people make great discoveries. Learn about the earliest citizen scientists- who they were, what they did, find out about their contributions to science, and explore how citizen science has continued and transformed to the present day. Students will work together to analyze the reading in one of three ways: completing a worksheet, participating in a cooperative learning activity, or playing an interactive game. 

Age level: Grade 6 and up

Time Needed: 60 minutes


  • Citizen Science – a reading intensive lesson plan (Word and pdf)
  • Short Examples from history (Word and pdf)
  • Who Mary Anning? (ppt and pdf)

Next Generation Science Standards: (Note: This lesson focuses on the development of scientific practices and an understanding of the nature of science as described by the Next Generation Science Standards)

Practices: Students will…

  • Engage in argument from evidence – Based on information gathered from the reading, students will discuss the importance of citizen science.
  • Obtain, evaluate and communicate information – students will obtain and communicate their findings, and evaluate the findings of others.

Cross-cutting concepts:

  • Patterns: There is a pattern in the way science has recently been enacted via citizen science.  A motivated and interested citizen contributes knowledge, helping scientists’ further understandings of the natural world.

Nature of Science Themes & Understandings: Students will know that…

  • Scientific investigations use a variety of methods.
  • Science is a way of knowing.
  • Science addresses questions about the natural and material world.
  • Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence.
  • Science is a human endeavor. 

Common Core

English Language Arts

  • RST.6-8.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
  • RST.6-8.2: Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • WHST.6.8.1B: Support claims with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.