Kids in Parks launches a new experiment: Citizen Science TRACK Trails

by Jason Urroz, April 29th, 2016

They aren’t wearing white lab coats, but there are already young citizen scientists collecting data at Front Lake at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. On April 27, the Kids in Parks program opened its first Citizen Science TRACK Trail designed to engage kids in learning and caring for the park’s ecosystem while helping staff researchers and natural resource managers.

Citizen Science is a new approach to data collection that enlists the public’s help in making observations and taking readings for studies and research. With the new trail, children and families can get in on the action. Kids follow a new brochure to locate marked stations around the lake, where they perform observations and experiments such as taking air and water temperature readings and using tools to measure the pH of the lake. In addition to helping researchers, the children learn new skills related to environmental science, connecting the dots between outdoor adventures and protecting natural resources.

“We’re extremely excited to have the Kids in Parks program’s first Citizen Science-based TRACK Trail here at Carl Sandburg,” said Sarah Perschall, Chief of Visitor Services at Carl Sandburg. Park staff and the Kids in Parks team collaborated to create the site-specific brochure and experiment stations.

Fourth grade students from Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy in Mooresville, N.C., were the first children to explore the newly completed trail at the grand opening.  “The kids had a blast going from station to station to collect data,” said Adam Roades, an Interpretive Graphic Designer for the Kids in Parks program. “I never could have imagined how excited kids would be to take a water temperature reading.”

Perschall also witnessed the students’ enthusiasm. “It was fun to see the kids interact with the experiment stations, and I know our team of resource managers and scientists are going to be thrilled to receive the data kids collect during their adventures around the lake,” she said.

That’s right: the kids’ findings will have an impact on the park’s health. They can submit their observations and data to the Carl Sandburg staff by registering their scientific journey at Scientists from the park can then download the data and monitor the health of the lake over time.

“Over the past six years, we have created a network of TRACK Trails designed to get kids and families unplugged, outdoors and reconnected to our parks,” said Jason Urroz, Director of Kids in Parks. “I think our Citizen Science TRACK Trails can only add to that connection. And, who knows? Maybe some of them will become scientists, or rangers, or ranger scientists.”

Kids in Parks will be launching new Citizen Science TRACK Trails in the future.