We are living in a time of overwhelming possibilities. The challenge? Teaching ourselves and our communities through our kids how to access those possibilities. WeatherBlur has accepted this challenge.
WeatherBlur is an exciting program funded by the National Science Foundation and is a community-based non-hierarchical citizen science platform that allows communities to develop their own research projects, called investigations, to help them solve a local problem that may be related, but not limited, to weather and/or climate-changing events. iWonder is the online part of the WeatherBlur project. The project continues work by previous WeatherBlur projects to bring together students, educators, scientists and community members across varying communities and educational settings. These community stakeholders work toward a common goal to help their communities thrive and enable deep, authentic community learning within co-created citizen science projects.
The WeatherBlur program has been redesigned to focus on the emerging field of Computational Thinking and helping teachers and students tackle Big Data. We have partnered with the online, data analysis website, Tuva, to take the data we are collecting through our citizen science platform and answer the questions that mean the most to our communities.
Communities use the online ‘iWonder’ space to pose an idea and build investigatable questions. These can then evolve into scientific investigations as the wider community, including scientists and experts, add to the discussions and make questions SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, Timely).
WeatherBlur investigations tend to fall into one or more of a number of themes. These themes are:
- Natural resources and how they may be changing over time.
- Water quality – both freshwater and marine.
- Severe weather events
These themes will be expanded as communities work on new problems that they wish to address.
WeatherBlur questions can be initiated by ANYONE in the community. Business leaders, elementary school students, teachers, community volunteers and other participants can all have great ideas and local in-depth knowledge of issues that need to be addressed. The important thing about WeatherBlur is that it brings all these people together to work as equals to gather data and draw conclusions that can benefit the wider community.
How Are Schools Involved?
As part of the NSF grant, WeatherBlur has invited 10 elementary/middle schools to become involved. In addition to the Maine coastal and island schools, who have participated in years past, we have expanded our geography to include schools from Mississippi and Alabama. Classroom resources (Common Core, ELA and NGSS) equipment, and access to Tuva are provided to these schools and weekly online (Zoom) meetings help teachers to ask questions and work in a wider community. Professional development sessions for teachers will be held each year and a modest stipend is paid to participating teachers.
Additionally, Weatherblur has enlisted the help of veteran WB teachers to form a Teacher Advisory Group. This group gathers together, monthly, to co-design professional learning resources around computational thinking in citizen science.
Can Any Organization Become Involved?
We are happy to discuss collaboration with any like-minded organization who sees mutual benefit in being involved with WeatherBlur. Please contact Rebecca Clark Uchenna. We are always seeking funding partners to expand the breadth and depth of WeatherBlur.
WeatherBlur in the Larger Research Picture
The WeatherBlur project will continue to enhance understanding of how non-hierarchical online learning communities in a co-created citizen science project frame can enable deep, authentic community learning. In the next few years, we will also focus much energy on researching what supports teachers need to integrate computational thinking into their citizen science lessons.
In a non-hierarchical online learning community, participants of all ages and diverse backgrounds will come together to share and build knowledge about a concept that is of interest to them. Every member of the community is both a producer and consumer of information who brings a special expertise to share. To our knowledge, WeatherBlur is one of the only active non-hierarchical online learning communities in the country.