There are so many ways to be a citizen scientist in our area. As an adult I love participating as a way to be outdoors, give back to the community, further my education in the sciences, and meet other people who are interested in nature. When my children were younger they loved helping with many of these activities. If you are interested in getting your kids involved we share many “citizen scientist” activities in the Earthschooling curriculum – so you don’t need a local connection to participate in some of these “real-life” experiences and make real contributions to science!
One opportunity that everyone can participate in every year are the annual bird counts. There are two very large ‘bird counts’ done every year, the Christmas Bird Count, which is run by the Audubon Society and one called The Great Backyard Birdcount that is run by Cornell Ornithology Labs. The Christmas Bird Count is done every year from December 14th through January 5th and must take place in a designated CBC (Christmas Bird Count) circle. The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place in February, is less formal and is as simple as counting birds for at least 15 minutes in one place and reporting your observations on the official website. http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html. Both of these websites also have a wealth of bird information.
Even if you miss a date for the bird count you can still practice for the next one or find a local count to participate in. We have three nature centers in our area that do bird counts year-round. Birds are especially easy to find in the winter months as there are no leaves to hide among.
Be sure to check with your local DNR, wildlife nonprofits or local nature center to see if they organize groups of citizen scientist events. Events I have participated in in the past include: Wolf Tracking for the Wisconsin DNR, Bald Eagle Monitoring for the Iowa DNR, and Cougar Tracking with a Colorado Non-Profit. Every one of these programs welcomed children with adult participation. The image used in this post was taken on the nature trail near our home by me.