Students at Cuyamaca Outdoor School are learning to think
and act like scientists through a series of citizen science projects.
The projects started last year with a study about the goldspotted
oak borer, a destructive beetle that has been killing trees at the Camp
Cuyamaca site. Through that effort, students from throughout the county have
participated in hands-on science lessons while providing information to
researchers at UC Riverside about trees that have been damaged by the beetle.
"I was looking for opportunities for our students to be
involved in real-world science projects," Principal Greg Schuett said.
Now, each outdoor education specialist at the school is
coming up with at least one other citizen science project to encourage students
to think like scientists. Each of these will be connected in some way with an
ongoing science project where outside organizations will be using the data the
children are collecting.
One of the new projects that many of the students are
participating in is a look at how the life cycle of trees is changing in
response to climate change. Students are collecting information about
the plants in the camp and sending the data to scientists. This includes
information about which plants are thriving, which are dying, and which are
housing different insects.
Another is working with plant experts to repopulate the area
with native vegetation. Many of the trees and plants in the area were damaged
or destroyed by wildfires over the years, and nonnative plants have taken over
in some spots.
Still another of the efforts has students collecting
information on the relationship between aphids and lady bugs.
Teachers at the outdoor school located in Cuyamaca Rancho
State Park are putting together lesson plans for the work that are tied in with
Generation Science Standards.
Additional citizen science projects will be developed next year,
Schuett said. Whatever students collect data about, the lessons cover the same
concepts, he said.
Cuyamaca Outdoor School, also known as 6th Grade
Camp, is run by San Diego County Office of Education's Outdoor
The outdoor school at Camp Cuyamaca serves about 12,000
students each year during four- or five-day excursions. The camp in the
mountains east of San Diego features hands-on lessons that incorporate life
science, earth science, outdoor skills, Native American lore and art and many
social growth opportunities.