Additional Dispatches | June 29, 2021

Bee a Scientist virtual experience

4-H Youth collected and contributed data to the work of Maine’s state apiarist. In turn, the apiarist spent time with youth debriefing their fieldwork. The Maine State Library and Gulf of Maine Research Institute provided support.

Youth from around Maine were invited to help scientists understand where bees and wasps in Maine are being seen. This launched a summer-long citizen science challenge to observe, collect and contribute data about these insects. Maine 4-H Citizen Science club members introduced youth to the technology and tools needed to collect the data and youth presenters created a series of videos to support them. State of Maine Apiarist, Jennifer Lund, spoke about the importance of bees and wasps in Maine, the importance of citizen science contributions to her work, and how youth could contribute. Participants collected and submitted data through August 2021 to contribute to the ongoing scientific research. No prior experience was needed, but youth did need a digital camera or cell phone and internet access to submit their observations. Participants were given follow-up resources related to bee and wasp identification and how to join iNaturalist and this specific BioBlitz. A Q&A session was held for anyone who had questions or wanted to connect. Participants were also invited to an optional session to share some of their observations with Jennifer, debrief their fieldwork, and hear how this project might influence the work of bee and wasp scientists around the state. The project had statewide reach with 19 participants from a wide geographic area.

Bee a Scientist was a collaboration between several organizations. 4-H hosted the events, managed registration, set up the challenge, communicated with participants and presenters, provided support and questions during the summer session, and recruited youth presenters. The Maine State Library supported youth during the sessions and held a scavenger hunt with library participation around the state. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute provided workshop support with the creation of a Bee and Wasp Identification guide. Jennifer Lund was the content expert and helped to establish the need. This group looks forward to further collaborations.

Ideas for next time:

  • Give youth presenters more voice and involvement in the process
  • Allow more than one hour for Q&A and follow up
  • Consider parent interest for volunteer opportunities in guiding the project, some joined their kids and expressed interest

This activity exemplified the following Connected Learning Ecosystem attributes:

  • Working in the open
  • Connecting educators
  • Investigating climate change
  • Building data literacy
  • Supporting rural communities

Submitted by 4-H Science Centers, Statewide, Maine.