When we hear about scientific research, we imagine a group of serious people with half the alphabet after their names, signifying endless degrees that prove a proficiency in concepts that would give the average person a headache. We imagine these geniuses sitting in labs, or in exotic places with millions of dollars worth of equipment, laptops and notebooks in hand to jot down scientific observations that will reveal the complexities of the world. We don’t often think that we could collect the same information by standing in our backyard, looking at birds with a pair of cheap binoculars. It’s nowhere near the official image that we hold in our minds. In addition, most people don’t seem to have the training to take part in such endeavors. But why not? What if we, as a community, were able to do that kind of research with nothing more than time, a camera, and good old-fashioned curiosity?

This is community science.

Community science has many definitions that have evolved with this field of research since its inception in the 1990s. Though there is no set definition, the core of community science (also known as citizen science) is that scientific projects can involve everyday citizens who volunteer time, knowledge, and experience to advance the research and study of a scientific work. Alan Irwin, a British sociologist who was one of the pioneers for community science, emphasized that the scientific projects being done should benefit the citizens who aid the research.

Though the definition for citizen science is new, the concept is not. Throughout history, everyday citizens contributed time and energy into explaining the complexities of the universe, prompted solely by curiosity.

An unlikely example of citizen scientists through history were the founding fathers. Benjamin Franklin is a prime example of a citizen scientist. Franklin had little to no formal training as a scientist, yet revolutionized the scientific world through simple observation. Franklin’s purpose for creating his inventions and conducting his experiments was to improve the lives of everyday people. Writer Shawn Carlson stated that “Franklin was the first person to prove that pure science could benefit ordinary people.” This founding father and citizen scientist created a legacy through scientific discoveries such as the scale of an atom, suggesting the origin of climate change, hurricane tracking, and inventions such as batteries, bifocals, and the glass armonica.

Citizens have continued to revolutionize science through observation and experimentation, and are now coming together to build a community that can exchange and compare data that can be passed on to the wider scientific community. As an example, in 2017 sixty smallholder farmers, in two Ethiopian highland communities, worked with researchers from universities and scientific institutes across Italy and Ethiopia to collect research on how to conduct “modern, genomic-driven breeding”. These farmers drew from generational knowledge of their crops to observe the traits of 400 varieties of wheat, to find ways to grow crops according to local agriculture and to improve modern crop breeding. In the end, they collected “200 thousand data points, that the researchers related to 30 million molecular data deriving from the genomic characterization of the wheat varieties” (Phys.org). This kind of community science drew from generational knowledge ingrained in farmers who have worked the land for decades, and paired it with the experience of trained science to collect data that will benefit the world at large.

Involvement in this kind of community science is available at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center through programs like BioBlitz and iNaturalist. BioBlitz, which will be from 1 p.m. to 1 p.m. April 19-20, is a 24-hour cataloging blitz led by scientists and specialists. These scientists will guide participants on an educational hike around the property to find and catalog the different species in the arboretum. The cataloging will be done through the iNaturalist app, which is a public app that helps identify and catalog the species through photographs or recordings which then give listings of what the animal, or plant may be. This app can identify the species not just through images and sound, but by location and the results found by other users of the app. Reflection Riding will be partnering with another citizen science project at the Chattanooga Zoo called "Frog Watch USA," where the BioBlitz identification process will occur to catalog local frogs and toads.

Corey Hagen, the Director of Education for Reflection Riding Arboretum, hopes that the iNaturalist program will engage people during their time outdoors. He wants “people to realize that you can participate in valuable science and fun activities outdoors using your mobile device. The hopeful outcome for the BioBlitz is just to introduce people to the amazingly diverse community of plants and animals that we have to enjoy in Southeast Tennessee.”

Works Cited

The Electric Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father, Citizen Scientist

Harnessing Traditional Knowledge to Wheat Breeding in Ethiopia

Combining Genomics with Farmers' Traditional Knowledge to Improve Wheat Production

Citizen Science

About the Author
Nicole Dominguez is an experienced writer, in creative fiction and nonfiction, academic/research articles, literary and fine art analysis, poetry, and literary journalism. She is passionate about intergenerational and intercultural relationships, creativity, and the preservation of the past to ensure the creation of a better future.

Posted by Nicole Dominguez

Wauhatchie Forest School, Tennessee’s first forest kindergarten program based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will expand its campus to include additional sites in 2019.

Beginning this fall, Wauhatchie School will continue to offer classes at its main campus at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lookout Lake in Lookout Valley, and will expand to include sites at the Chattanooga Audubon Society and Ivy Academy in the Chattanooga area.

“It's been so much fun working with Wauhatchie School as they grow their presence across Chattanooga,” says Mark McKnight, President of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. “As we establish Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center as a hub for environmental education and conservation, we want to see these ideas spread. We want environmental education and access to the outdoors to be expected for all kids rather than some oddity. From our Forest Kindergarten workshop last year to hosting the students on a daily basis, the energy that Wauhatchie has brought to the property has been phenomenal.”

Forest Kindergarten is based on the German concept of waldkindergarten, meaning “forest nursery,” and it is gaining popularity in the United States. Typically serving children ages 3 to 6 years, Forest Kindergarten takes place entirely outdoors, rain or shine. Teachers supervise students in their explorations and play, but do not lead.

Wauhatchie School is a dream come true for the school’s founder, Jean Lomino, an educator of 40-plus years with a doctorate in leadership with an emphasis in environmental education. 

According to Lomino, “Research shows that long-term exposure to the outdoors-particularly in one place-is the most effective way to develop a strong connection to nature. Studies have also shown that this kind of experience for children provides many important physical, social, emotional and academic benefits as well.”

Since its beginnings in 2015, Wauhatchie School has become a leader in forest school education. Lomino has been consulting with teachers at Gilbert Elementary in Lafayette, Georgia, to start the first public school Forest Kindergarten program in the country. She has also worked with Red Bank Elementary School’s Forest Kindergarten and outdoor education programs.  Over the past four years, over 90 teachers have trained at Wauhatchie School, and most went on to establish new Forest Kindergarten programs throughout the southeast.

In 2017, Lomino spent two months working with Forest Kindergarten teachers and consulting in Guangzhou, China.  Last spring a group of Chinese teachers from Jinan, as well as a teacher from Cape Town, South Africa, came to Wauhatchie School for training.

Lomino has also collaborated on research with the vice-chair of the Korean Forest Kindergarten Association and university professor, Dr. Jiyoun Shin. They studied character strength development in Forest Kindergarten with four Forest Kindergarten programs in the Chattanooga area.  They are currently writing the results of their research which will be presented this summer and authoring a Forest Kindergarten guidebook.

Open House events for parents are being held at all four locations this winter. For more information, visit www.Wauhatchie.org.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: Forest School

Originally Published in the lookout mountain mirror

Do you know a woman who needs an outdoor adventure? Here’s an opportunity to nominate her for an exciting trip. Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan of DNK Presents host an unprecedented event each year, the Live Adventurously, Women’s Adventure Giveaway. This event is a chance for people to nominate a woman in their lives who may win a customized extended backcountry adventure weekend guided by outdoor pros Danielle and Kate. 

This trip takes four women off the grid for four days. Cell phones are taken away! Danielle and Kate will select the adventure activities and may include backpacking, mountain biking, rappelling, bouldering, zip lining, paddling or another thrilling experience! 

When asked why they started this event, Danielle replied, “There are so many reasons! I didn’t notice until Kate and I began getting our wilderness and outdoor guiding certifications that we were definitely outnumbered being women and in the LGBTQ+ family. Fortunately, this number is increasing as well as people of color in the outdoors. Growing our company since 2014, we’ve focused on women’s empowerment and getting more women and girls in the outdoors. We on our women-only adventures saw that many women were having breakthrough moments and surprising themselves saying things such as, 'I never thought I could carry everything I needed for the weekend on my back, make fire, filter my own water and have a blast doing it!' We saw women go on to summit mountains, ask for raises at work and do other amazing things. We noticed these outdoor experiences weren't just fun and educational, but empowering, showing women they could do much more than they thought they could and they got to meet other amazing women who enjoyed the outdoors as well."

"We decided it would be cool to do a give back in some way for women in our community since their stories and experiences had greatly inspired so many. We knew many women ourselves we wanted to share an adventure with and every time we spoke about our adventures, women would mention, 'I know someone who should do this,' or 'so and so needs to do this but she can't because of X' (insert some excuse here). This is what brought the idea of a nomination based giveaway - we found everyone knows someone who could use an adventure in her life!"

"We also produced an award-winning documentary film, Live Adventurously that follows the four women who won our inaugural Women's Adventure Giveaway.” You can see the trailer (embedded here as well) and learn more about the event on the website.

Reflection Riding recently hosted an outdoor viewing of this film. Watching this film proved these women left empowered, excited and more knowledgeable of the outdoors and of themselves. There was lots of laughing, storytelling and camaraderie. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself a little and these women definitely did that! 

In addition to a fantastic weekend, DNK Presents has approximately 20 local and corporate sponsors who provide the participating women with over $1,500.00 worth of free gear so they can keep on adventuring. 
For 2019, DNK Presents has opened the giveaway to women in and outside the Chattanooga area. Anyone in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama are welcome to nominate a woman they know who could use an adventure in her life. The winners of the giveaway will need to provide transportation to and from Chattanooga for the weekend of the trip May 16-19, 2019 and 1 or 2 dates prior to the weekend trip. 

Have someone in mind? From now until February 28, 2019, you can nominate a deserving woman. Danielle and Kate say they keep the nomination fairly general because any woman is deserving of the nomination! They recommend nominating a woman who could be overworked, a selfless individual, a busy parent, has overcome an obstacle in her life, has always wanted to try something new in the outdoors, etc. This adventure will provide women with self discovery, empowerment and confidence so they can see how truly amazing they are!

Requirements for nominees include: must be able to carry at least 35lbs on their back, can ride a bicycle (basic), be willing to give up their phone/technology for 4 days, open to living in the woods for 4 days with little to no modern amenities, have an adventurous spirit and willingness to try new things, open to video and photos taken, available May 16-19 for the adventure weekend and a few other dates beforehand. Click here share her story for a chance to win a life changing, wild, adventurous weekend!

You can also schedule your next great adventure with Danielle and Kate! Their trips range from guided hikes, paddling trips, to week long backpacking and yoga retreats in the Grand Canyon, mountain bike rides and clinics in Sedona, Utah, North Carolina, and so much more to come!

Danielle & Kate state,” We truly live our lives adventurously and know the benefits of unplugging from technology, trying something new and immersing yourself in nature. Our own adventures have increased our confidence, inspired us to start a business and boosted our mental, physical and spiritual health and wellness. Because of this we have made it our mission to facilitate these experiences for others."

Several DNK adventurers comment that their trip was no pressure. Their pace helped eliminate jitters and fears about trying new things and thrived in a environment of support, but also space for independence. 

Everyone needs to recharge and unplug from technology,  take adventures to help us know where we belong and to recognize your life should be your greatest adventure - step outside your comfort zone and gain confidence and empowerment through experiential learning.

Posted by Tish Gailmard  | Category: Recreation

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