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University of Minnesota Extension

Driven to Discover

What is Driven to Discover?

Driven to Discover: Enabling authentic inquiry through citizen science uses citizen science as a way to engage kids in the full process of scientific research. We provide tools and resources for youth group leaders and teachers to plan and carry out citizen science-based research with youth.

Young scientists learn to collect and submit data to a national citizen science project. While they are collecting data, they keep a journal of their own observations and questions. These personal observations then provide the basis for their own independent research. As they take part in Driven to Discover (also known as D2D), youth discover the wonders of science in the real world, beyond a textbook. They learn about the natural world and begin to think of themselves as scientists.

The Driven to Discover process

Participants in Driven to Discover citizen science classes and clubs experience a three-step process that builds on observation and data collection to prepare youth participants to do their own independent investigations. First, they develop a base of skills and knowledge that will allow them to recognize the organisms they’re studying, tuning their observational skills. Next, they put that base to work when they learn and implement the specific protocols of the citizen science project. These experiences provide opportunities to observe nature closely, not just seeing organisms, but quantifying and recording what they see. The first two steps trigger the youth participants’ natural curiosity and provide the skills and motivation needed to support an independent research project. Youth formalize their hypothesis and conduct their own scientific investigation.

What are people saying about Driven to Discover?

  • “The program helped youth learn about science, increased their understanding of citizen science, strengthened their science identities, and supported their ongoing development of science inquiry skills.” - Garibay Group, external evaluators.
  • “I feel the D2D project has given me the tools I need to be more confident in engaging youth in science inquiry. D2D has helped me to see how all the steps work together and the need to incorporate each one for a more holistic experience.” - Adult leader
  • “This is the best program I’ve ever participated in as a professional environmental educator and a community center administrator. This is truly a special program.” - Adult leader
  • “Happy to be outdoors observing the natural world with youth. Enjoy the organization of lessons and goals of the curricula. It feels like it’s set up to succeed.” - Adult leader
  • “It is gratifying as an educator to be able to teach skills and concepts to kids and then have them be in the position to apply that learning authentically in a manner in which they are totally invested.” - Adult leader

Visit our YouTube playlist to see Driven to Discover in action!

Getting started with the Driven to Discover program

Driven to Discover provides the training, curriculum and resources to help you engage middle school-age youth in citizen science projects and independent science investigations.

This program has two variations. One series is designed for after school and summer youth programs while the other series is designed for middle and high school classroom settings. Each edition in each series is built around nationally-known citizen science programs, and the curriculum can easily be adapted for use with other citizen science projects.

Regardless of the topic or targeted setting, all Driven to Discover curricula use citizen science experiences to drive independent youth investigations. Adapt any of these to your specific situation or setting.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation, Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science, Grant No. 0917450 and Driven to Discover: Citizen Science Inspires Classroom Investigation, Grant No. 1417777. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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