Every teacher knows how hard it can be to engage children in the classroom. It can be especially difficult to keep the kids’ attention if they don’t feel the material is relevant to their daily lives. A citizen science approach could change that.

The National Ecological Observatory Network has set up a website called Citizen Science Academy, and the goal is to provide resources for educators to implement of citizen science projects at school. The activities focus on ecology and environmental sciences, and the resources will eventually include modules, tutorials, and a “virtual community of practice.”

Right now, there are four courses on offer, including an introduction to citizen science, as well as material specific to Project Budburst, an ongoing plant-focused citizen science project.

The material is designed to instruct teachers as to “how to participate, including how to select your plants and make observations, suggestions for structuring your classroom involvement, educational activities to engage your students in making observations, analyzing data, as well as forming a community with other educators.”

There’s a long history of children making scientific discoveries already. While watching a webcam, Kirill Dudko spotted a female elephant seal at depths previously unknown to researchers. Kathryn Gray was just nine years old when she discovered a supernova by comparing images of the night sky. Meanwhile, Jake Carstensen and Tyler Kellett found a rare mastodon mandible and tusk while out exploring in Colorado.

Imagine what your students could do with some hands-on experience and some encouragement!

Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke.