Citizen Science and Service Learning
Citizen science and service learning have long been part of NPS archeology outreach. Field schools, public excavation and artifact processing days, and site stewardship programs engage the public in collecting and managing archeological data. Other projects support archeology, such as background research (such as collecting newspaper data into a database or identifying elements in photographs), oral history, and experimenting with traditional materials. Parks may also initiate projects to draw on the public's expertise, such as engaging metal detectorists to conduct surveys.
Defining Citizen Science and Service Learning
Citizen science is when the general public joins scientists and subject matter experts in collecting and analyzing data as part of a collaborative project. Service learning is citizen science as public service. It is often used by K-12 and secondary education to refer to projects where students apply classroom-based curricula to public service in their community.
Citizen science and service learning projects on NPS meet the following criteria:
- The project takes place on NPS lands or with a NPS program.
- The project meets the NPS mission and fulfills an archeological resource management need.
- The project is funded by NPS or another federal entity or is supported by NPS in-kind contributions.
- Participants collect data and may conduct preliminary processing and analysis. Project outcomes include active management of data and data quality.
Other considerations include:
- The project meets both the NPS mission and a societal need.
- Participants are contributors, collaborators, or co-creators.
- The project is interdisciplinary.
- Participation is voluntary, but projects may identify a minimum number of hours or time commitment.
When creating or managing citizen science or service learning program, consider the following best practices:
- Every project and program should be supervised by a professional archeologist as defined in Appendix E of DO28. Some projects, such as the curation of artifacts, may be supervised by professionals in appropriate fields. NPS archeologists must drive research and are responsible for quality control over the results. If an archeologist is not available, a park should not host a program.
- Participants cannot conduct their own unvetted programs, or deviate from an archeologist's directions. They should not, for example, carry out their own excavation or metal detect unsupervised.
- NPS cultural resource management takes place to comply with the law. Integrate information about NHPA, NAGPRA, and ARPA into training. Consider creating handouts, postcards, or bookmarks with the basics about these laws. Find plain English information on the Archeology Law and Ethics page.
Parks should not undertake citizen science or service learning programs if a professional archeologist is unavailable to give the time, attention, and supervision necessary. When weighing whether or not to host a program, consider that the public and students:
- Make valuable contributions to NPS cultural resource management, inspire staff and bring a fresh perspective, and may go on to become archeologists, themselves.
- Become ambassadors to NPS and archeology, by talking about their experiences with friends, family and communities. These conversations help the public to understand why the NPS does archeology and how it is valuable and relevant.
- Require supervision and time for mentoring, administrative paperwork, checking the accuracy of completed work, and other tasks.
- Need training to complete their tasks and frequent check-ins to ensure work is being done correctly. Archeologists may wish to develop a guidebook with protocols for the work, or schedule a training program.
- Require supervision, even if they are very experienced in the field.
- Should not make cultural resource management decisions.
- Should not supervise volunteers.
- May publish findings, but should do so through an agreement with the park, which retains control over the subject matter, especially sensitive data such as site locations.
- Nassaney, Michael S. and Mary Ann Levine (eds.). Archaeology and Community Service Learning. University Press of Florida. 2009.
- Amateur Certification (certification programs and the Crabtree Award)
- Technical Brief 9: Training and Using Volunteers in Archeology: A Case Study From Arkansas
- Technical Brief 22: Developing and Implementing Archeological Site Stewardship Programs
- NPS Citizen Science
- NPS Research Learning Centers - Citizen Science
- citizenscience.gov, Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Catalog, and Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit
- NPS Youth Programs (InsideNPS)
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- Road Scholars: Service Learning
Citizen science programs can benefit, in particular, from avocational or amateur archeologists who do archeology as a hobby and not as a profession, but they vary greatly in skill level and commitment. Because they come with a skill set and a deeper knowledge, they can be assigned more complex tasks, but NPS staff must retain control over decisionmaking in keeping with NPS policy and procedure. Avocational archeologists:
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