Citizen Science Projects for School and Home
Sign up now for our free, monthly e-zine and get school garden news!You'll want to take a look at these garden-based activities and projects for home and school, for indoors and out.

Help Butterflies This Summer

Nothing says summer like butterflies.  But these beautiful pollinators need our help ~ as much as we need theirs.  Here are some great ways to help scientists learn more about these important insects:

Monarch butterflyMonarch Larva Monitoring Project
Monitor patches of milkweed weekly to count monarch eggs and larvae, and assess milkweed density. This data will help scientists determine the distribution and abundance patterns of monarch butterflies in North America.

The parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), which is not harmful to humans, limits the Monarch butterfly's ability to survive in the wild. This project involves capturing butterlies and swabbing their abdomens to collect parasite spores. Families, retired persons, classrooms, monarch organizations, nature centers, and individuals are encouraged to participate ~ no special skills or knowledge required.

Monarch Watch Tagging 
Through this project, Monarch Watch hopes to interest students in the conservation of habitats critical to the survival of the monarch butterfly and its magnificent migrations. 

Red Admiral butterflyMonarch Waystations 
Help offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources -- critical Monarch habitats -- by creating "Monarch Waystations" in home gardens, at schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. Without a major effort to restore milkweeds to as many locations as possible, the monarch population is certain to decline to extremely low levels. Once a “waystation” has been created, it can be certified and a sign may be purchased from Monarch Watch.

The Red Admiral and Painted Lady Research Site
Help scientist learn more about Vanessa butterflies, including Red Admirals and Painted Ladies. How do they migrate and distribute themselves across North America each year? Your data will be added to an interactive map that shows how their range expands northward in the spring, and retreats southward in the fall.

Here are some lessons you might find useful:

View more lesson ideas here!


'Bee' Good to the Bees
Get involved in citizen scientist projects that help our favorite pollinator.Spring showers bring summer flowers, and hopefully attract our favorite pollinators. According to the University of Illinois, over 75% of the planet’s flowering plants depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. The majority of those pollinators are insects, including more than 5,000 species of bees. Unfortunately, colony collapse disorder has caused bee populations to drop dramatically in recent years. 

Get your kids excited about protecting bees (and reassure their fears about bees at the same time). Don't use chemical insect controls in the garden, especially early and late in the day, and particpate in these citizen science activities (details listed below this article):


  • Bee Spotter - Help University of Illinois entomologists by sharing photographs of bees in your Illinois garden.  A great way to integrate technology in the outdoor classroom!
  • The Great Sunflower Project - Watch and record bees and other pollinators at sunflowers in your garden to help researchers understand the challenges bees are facing. Free sunflower seeds for planting!
  • Xerces Society: Project Bumblebee - Track the status of five bumblebee species by sending in a photo.  A regularly updated map shows nesting site locations provided by citizens across the country.
Plus, check out the photographs at Passion for Pollinators. It's sure to inspire! (We've list more great websites here.)

And visit the the Montana Pollinator Education Project, which provides links to lesson plans, illustrations, publications, videos, websites - plus, offers a recommended reading list for students and teachers.

Here are some lessons and resources you might find useful:

View more lesson ideas here! 

Pollinators from

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Children on a Discovery Walk during the Wee Gardeners Nature Workshop Series, Greensboro, N.C.

Indoor & Outdoor Classroom Activities  
Bee Spotter
Help University of Illinois entomologists by sharing your photographs of bees. Over 75% of the planet’s flowering plants depend on animal pollinators in order to reproduce and the majority of those animal pollinators are insects. Among the most important pollinators in both natural and managed systems are the 5000+ species of bees in the family Apidae, a group that includes honey bees and bumble bees. Concern about pollinator declines has increased in recent years, and, where pollinator status has been monitored over time, as in Europe, reductions in numbers, in some cases dramatic, have been documented. 

The Bugscope Project
Provides free interactive access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) so that students anywhere in the world can explore the microscopic world of insects. This educational outreach program from the Beckman Institute's Imaging Technology Group at the University of Illinois supports K-16 classrooms worldwide.

Firefly Watch
A citizen science project that combines an annual summer evening ritual with scientific research. The Museum of Science in Boston has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University and Fitchburg State College to track the fate of fireflies. With the help of a network of volunteers observing fireflies in their own backyard, scientists hope to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies, their activity during the summer season and how they are affected by human-made light and lawn pesticides.

One Seed Chicago  
Chicago's Greening Network invites all of us to Grow Together. Get seed packets for home or classroom.

Project Bud Burst
National field campaign for citizen scientists

Soda Bottle Composting
Build a soda bottle bioreactor

The Lost Ladybug Project
You can help! - Find ‘em, photograph ‘em, and send ‘em

The Great Plant Escape: Activities, Curriculum
University of Illinois Extension

The Great Sunflower Project
Watch and record bees and other pollinators at sunflowers in your garden to help researchers understand the challenges bees are facing.  Free sunflower seeds for planting!

Vegetable Varieties Investigation
Gardeners have been asking, "What vegetable varieties will grow best in my garden?" for centuries. By conducting the Vegetable Varieties investigation, you will help uncover some answers for today's gardeners and scientists. You will also contribute to an online library of gardeners' vegetable variety experiences which will serve as a tool for preserving knowledge and promoting biodiversity. A citizen science program from the Cornell University Department of Horticulture.

Wildwoods Foundation's Web of Our World
Students explore and document online the community surrounding their school

World Food Garden
Like Facebook, but for your food garden. Students can share pics and stories about your garden and browse other gardens to make friends.

Activities to Download 
These fun activities use multiple intelligences to emphasize math, science, music, language and visual arts in the garden. (Adult supervision required)   

Ages 3-5
Garden Patterns
Seed Sorting
Role Playing: From Seed to Sprout

Ages 6+
Chart Your Own Garden
Create a Garden Diorama              

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