Citizen Science Project #1: Lab in the Wild

Saving for later: A citizen science project kids can participate in without leaving the living room! #homeschool

If you read the Winter 2016 issue of home/school/life magazine, you may know that I made a resolution to do more citizen science projects this year in my Hands On Science column. While I hope to teach my boys more about citizen science and get them involved in some of the projects, this resolution is actually for me. My goal is for me to do them.

Why am I doing this? First, my oldest son has showed me how much I love science. (When I was in school, it was my most dreaded class!) So I think it’s really cool that I can become involved in real science even though I am not a credentialed scientist. I am doing this because I want to.

Second, as a homeschooling mom, I think the best way to get my kids excited about something is to do it myself. Also, if I learn about a subject thoroughly, I’ll be better able to teach my children.

Third, my oldest son has always been interested in science. I consider it my job to help him continue his interest, and I’m looking for other ways to teach science in a hands-on way.

I’m not sure how many citizen science projects I can tackle in a year, but for now, I’m going to try to do one project (or at least look into) one project per month. For January, I wanted to start easy. (You know, because I was also easing back into a routine after the holidays.)

For my first project, I picked Lab in the Wild because it is completely online, and I could do it from my desk chair.  As the website states, “LabintheWild tests your abilities and preferences. At the end of each experiment, you will see a page with your personalized feedback, which lets you compare yourself and your performance to other people around the world. By participating, you contribute to research on people's similarities and differences and help improve users' experience when interacting with technology.”

So over the course of two weeks, I took the twelve short tests they have on their website. Each test takes about 5-10 minutes. (You could do it in one sitting, I guess, but they were a bit energy draining for me.)

  • In “Can we guess your age?” I learned, for example, that I can distinguish between colors as well as a 15-year-old. (They were way off on my age!)
  • In “Test your social intelligence,” I learned that I score higher than average when it comes to reading the emotions of others by looking in their eyes.
  • In “What is your thinking style?” I learned that I am both intuitive and analytic.

Can this information help me in my daily life? Well, not really. But it’s fun and interesting nonetheless, and it’s helping the scientists.

After I finished taking the tests, I showed the site to my 9-year-old and explained the purpose to him. He wanted to try some of the tests, so he took three. He also took “Can we guess your age” and they guessed he was 17! (Not as far off as they were with me.) In the “What is Your Thinking Style?” test, he was more intuitive than analytical, and as for the “Do you have the reaction time of a cheetah?” test he learned that no, he’s not quite as fast as a cheetah. I wonder how he will score on these tests in 10 years or 20? That would be an interesting experiment!

If you have a few minutes, and want to help out some researchers, I dare you to try out these tests as well! Click on over to Lab In The Wild.