Saturday, 7 June 2014


Experiential learning helps us get down and dirty and understand the world about us. It is a great way to learn by doing.

A sheet of paper recently came across my desk titled "Citizen Science Projects in Nova Scotia". The paper presents links to citizen sighting projects, volunteer projects and phone App projects; such as Bat Conservation, The Butterfly Atlas, and Ice Watch. These are projects in which we can improve our understanding of the environment, engage in meaningful research, and learn about how to observe and measure the world around us. And, we are not expected to hold postgraduate degrees to get involved. We simply show a willingness and passion to volunteer, get out there and help.

Drilling down one of the links on this paper I came across a Carnegie Mellon University Research field data collection tool called SENSR.

"SENSR is a tool to create, share and manage a citizen science project running on mobile devices to harness the power of citizen scientists."

You need, simply, a download of the iPhone SENSR App, an idea for a project, and citizens to join in the data collection. No programming skills are needed to build the data collection tool and share data.

What a great way to develop experiential learning!

Existing SENSR projects include categories such as archaeology, climate and weather, food, ocean and water, ecology and environment, and health and medicine.

I can picture a project in Nova Scotia, along the lines of the Appalachian Mountain Club Flower Watch Project, in which SENSR observers can photograph and map plant species to observe microclimates and follow long-term trends due to climate change, or a coastal project to photograph and map coastal debris.

An alternative learning path to formal education is through experiential learning. Maybe we should look more closely at organizations such as Citizen Science AssociationCitizen Science Alliance, and CARP, and field tools such as SENSR, to get our communities reconnected to our rural environment.

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