Not sure you have time to do citizen science with your kids? Well, you have time for this project. It’s the easiest citizen science project ever!
The University of Oklahoma Natural Products Discovery Group is asking you to send them a soil sample from your backyard. All you have to do is go to their website, order a kit, which is free (although they welcome $5 donations to cover the cost of the kits), and once you receive your kit, follow the simple directions for how to collect the soil.
The kit comes with a short form to fill out, a scoop, and a small plastic baggy. Open the package carefully because it converts into a pre-paid mailer that you will drop back into the mailbox once you have collected your sample. It literally took my son and I less than 10 minutes to do this project!
Why do they want your soil? They are looking for the microscopic life in it. There are many kinds of fungi, and most of it we cannot see with the naked eye, but it could be life saving. They are using these samples to find molecules that might fight cancer or stop the spread of infectious pathogens or any other deadly disease. Since there are millions of different kinds of fungi on earth, you might have something they don’t have in your backyard.
Not only is this project easy, it will help your child understand the importance of scientific research, and you may be helping to save lives too.
Before you mail off your sample, you will write down a soil sample i.d. number, and with this, you’ll be able to track your sample on their website, find out how many fungi came out of your sample and also see photos of these amazing organisms! (It may take awhile before your sample shows up in their database, so be patient.)
What citizen science projects have you participated in?
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.