Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Girl Scout Troop 70605 Tackles Light Pollution and Its Serious Consequences

In January, Troop 70605 from Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey piloted the NEW Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey. Citizen science is the practice of everyday citizens—like Girl Scouts!—observing their world and reporting the results to scientists who study that field. Citizen scientists study everything from insects on the ground to birds in the air to stars in the sky. As a citizen scientist, you can use science to address local and global problems—now that's BIG! By diligently reporting what you see for an issue you care about, you can paint a more accurate picture of what’s going on and provide ideas and new ways of thinking about the problem. This leads to finding better solutions. It's a win-win!

Here's what Troop 70605 had to say about its experience with the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey.

What did you learn through the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey?
It showed us the skills and tools we can use as citizen scientists. We also learned about SciStarter, a website that helps people around the country share their scientific observations and contribute to global research. It was great to be able to collect data to help a scientist with their experiment while learning something new.

Being a citizen scientist starts with the scientific method, which is the five necessary steps that scientists use to make discoveries:

1. Make observations about your environment.

2. Ask scientific questions.

3. Form a hypothesis.

4. Design and conduct your experiment. What materials or tools will you need? When will you need to perform your experiment?

5. Analyze the data, draw a conclusion, and share your results.

We also learned a little about some scientific discoveries that changed the world and how the scientists that discovered them formed their hypotheses. The best part? We got to use the scientific method in an experiment that helped address a real-life problem.

Tell us more about the project you picked.
We chose to report on light pollution in our area for Globe at Night. Light pollution is human-made light that exists after dark, obscuring the view of the night sky. Globe at Night is an international campaign to raise awareness about light pollution. Our troop is passionate about the environment, but we had never heard of light pollution before this Leadership Journey. It sounded fascinating!

To complete the project, we had to identify a specific constellation and observe how dark the sky was by identifying other stars in the area. After our observation sessions, we entered our data into Globe at Night's database. What's amazing about this work is that scientists will use this data to monitor light pollution around the world and study the impact of light pollution on humans and wildlife.

After we completed our project, we finished our Take Action project by creating a website with local information about light pollution.

What was one of the most interesting thing about this Journey?
When we started, none of us realized that light pollution was such a problem. We discovered that light pollution has a negative impact on animals' migration, people’s and other animals' sleep habits, and animals' search for food. 

Get started on the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey for Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and Johnson & Johnson. Why do Girl Scouts make great citizen scientists? There are so many reasons. Here are a few we can all agree on: 1) Girl Scouts love the outdoors. 2) Girl Scouts are curious and open. 3) Girl Scouts are all about helping their communities. 4) Girl Scouts are passionate about DOING science—it's all about taking action! 

This Journey lets girls get outside to start collecting data and making observations. It's so much more than a science experiment!

Perhaps troop leader Liz summed up the experience best by saying, "the girls all agreed that this was their favorite Journey to date. They were excited to learn about a new topic and were able to gather real data to help real scientists."