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What is the Zooniverse? The Zooniverse, in partnership with Citizen Science, is an awesome website that allows everyday people to participate in active scientific research on topics ranging from space research to health. It’s an amazing site, and it has become a great launching pad for me when I am planning art integration lesson plans.
If you’re like me, your first thought is that you’re absolutely not qualified to analyze cancer cells, or supernovae, or fragmented papyri texts. Let’s debunk that myth now. It’s not true! Since hundreds of thousands of people across the world are actively taking part in the different Zoos right now, scientists take the average answers and develop their research based on that. So, if you categorize 10 galaxies incorrectly, chances are that you were one of 10,000 people who got those wrong out of 500,000 people who categorized galaxies in the Galaxy Zoo in total. No bigs! You are not about to steer the entire world’s knowledge base of space science in the wrong direction.
Right now, there are fourteen Zoos (different Zooniverse projects) in the Zooniverse. After scientists collect enough data, they close one Zoo and eventually another opens up. If you’re wondering why this sort of thing exists, it’s because in each of these projects, there was an overload of data that it would take decades for scientists to fully vet out. By turning the data over to the public in a fun and engaging way, scientists have been able to have this data analyzed in much shorter amounts of time.
My favorite Zoos right now are the Cell Slider zoo, where the public is able to analyze cancerous cells versus healthy cells. Another is the Snapshot Serengeti zoo (this one is really great to get elementary students involved in—the wheels in my head are turning) where the public categorizes animals that have been photographed in the Serengeti. The Ancient Lives Zoo is definitely a favorite, and I have created an arts integration unit based on it.
I highly recommend spending a little of your free time exploring the Zooniverse. Also, for awesome lesson plans based on the Zooniverse, some of them developed by me during my internship in the Education Department at the Adler Planetarium (see photo above of me on my last day as an intern), visit www.zooteach.org!