The LEARN CitSci project

Project summary

Dates: April 2017 - March 2022

Focus: Learning through participation in citizen science

Funding: Wellcome & UK ESRC (UK) plus National Science Foundation (USA)

Principal investigator: Lucy Robinson 

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This project studied what impact citizen science projects have on the young people that take part in them.

The LEARN CitSci project was an international partnership bringing together citizen science practitioners and educational researchers from six organisations in the UK and the US.

The study was led by Lucy Robinson, Citizen Science Manager at the Natural History Museum, London and Prof Heidi Ballard of the University of California, Davis School of Education. 

Project aims

The study aimed to understand how young people aged 5-19 years develop knowledge, practices and agency with environmental science through their participation in natural history museum-led citizen science and crowdsourcing projects. Agency, in this context, is the ability to take meaningful personal action in their life or community.

Research questions

Our project objectives included:

1) Explore and characterize youth participation in different learning environments

What is the nature of the learning environments, and what activities do young people engage in, when participating in NHM-led citizen science?

2) Examine learning outcomes across settings from socio-cultural learning theory perspective

To what extent do young people develop the following three science learning outcomes:

  • an understanding of the science content?
  • identifying roles for themselves in the practice of science?
  • developing a sense of agency for taking actions using science, through participation in NHM-led citizen science programs?

3) Identify strategies programmes can implement to enhance learning outcomes

What programme features and settings in NHM-led citizen science foster the three science learning outcomes outlined above?


The LEARN CitSci team of practitioners and researchers employed qualitative and quantitative research methods to characterize the settings and activities in these programs, to capture the learning processes and outcomes, and to identify how program features and settings in natural history museum-led citizen science foster or hinder environmental science learning.

Our methods ranged from ethnographic field notes and interviews, to surveys and online learning analytics.


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