Young Citizen Scientists with 'Zooniverse in Schools'

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


Citizen science provides the public with the opportunity to engage with science in a meaningful way that can have mutual benefit for participants and researchers. It allows people to make authentic contributions to research while simultaneously learning more about a topic. In the classroom this has the potential to impact on a young person's attitude towards and relationship with science. By showing children that they're able to make valuable contributions to real science, citizen science provides an opportunity to nurture their 'science identity' and build science capital (i.e. experiences in, knowledge of, and connections with science), influencing choices to continue with science post-16. It can also develop scientific literacy by giving students direct research experience and knowledge of 'how science works'.

Young Citizen Scientists with 'Zooniverse in School' will be the first large-scale programme to put STFC citizen science in schools, supporting STFC's vision of a society that values and participates in scientific endeavour by engaging children (9-12 years) with real scientific research. Through the world's largest and most popular citizen science platform, The Zooniverse, they will join volunteers from around the world to participate in research that would otherwise be unfeasible. The research projects on the platform, which span all disciplines, typically involve multiple volunteers analysing data by identifying or classifying objects in a series of images. Zooniverse in Schools extends this by enabling young people to undertake additional analysis of the images in a series of classroom activities using the newly-developed 'Zoo Notes' app. The app allows students to view all contributions made on a particular image, and thus visualise and interpret the analysed data before discussing their results with the researchers.

Zooniverse in Schools will focus on two research areas; Science Scribbler, where volunteers identify and categorise images of viruses generated at Diamond Light Source to improve our understanding of how viruses multiply in cells and Galaxy Zoo, where volunteers categorise images of galaxies to help us understand what their shape can tell us about the galaxies and the Universe as a whole.
In the first year, three online or in-person workshops on each topic will take place in schools, augmented with hands-on activities and discussions to help students develop their analytical and enquiry skills. In the second year, we will deliver an online Zooniverse in Schools Nationwide Challenge through live, multi-school webinars, pre-recorded video content, Q&A sessions and simple DIY demonstrations, closing with a celebration event. This will enable us to scale-up the reach of the programme while still providing support, encouragement and contact with researchers.

The sequential activities give students and their teachers the opportunity to explore and understand the research process in depth and experience the collaborative nature of the science for themselves. They provide direct contact with the researchers involved to discuss the real-world impact of this research, focussing on the students' contribution. The activities give the opportunity to explore the facilities and techniques used to image the data and the methods we use to train computers to analyse large data sets (investigating concepts like algorithms and decision trees).

Zooniverse in Schools will build upon Oxford Physics' work in engaging young people from backgrounds that are underrepresented within STEM. We have already developed and piloted, in a series of workshops, 'Zoo Notes' with our local target schools. We will now work with a number of partners (Diamond Light Source, The Ogden Trust, SEPnet, I'm a Scientist and Abingdon Science Partnership) to enhance the impact of the programme and ensure we reach young people who will benefit the most; those who live in the most deprived and remote areas of the UK.


10 25 50
Description Series of school workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We have delivered 60 workshops in schools across the UK. The workshops allow pupils to explore real scientific data through the Zooniverse platform. The workshops have reached 727 primary school children and 450 secondary school children. There is a formal evaluation taking place of the programme which will be available at the end of the programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022