Potential and pitfalls of citizen science with children: reflections on Pollinators in the Playground project

Kit Prendergast*, Amelie Vanderstock, Heather Neilly, Catherine Ross, Vanessa Pirotta, Patrick Tegart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Engaging school-age children in activities involving ‘real-world’ science and interacting with scientific researchers can promote an interest in appreciating and understanding the natural world and the scientific method. Here, we describe a project involving five female early-career and PhD researchers who facilitated a citizen science project with school-age children. Under the guidance of the researchers, across five schools, children created artificial flowers and installed them on school ovals. Over repeated 10-min observations, students recorded how colour (yellow vs. blue) and configuration (isolated, clumped adjacent, clumped mixed colour and clumped single colour) influenced how many and what taxa of insects visited. Here, we reflect on what we were able to achieve including creating a simple, fun, cost-effective project; anecdotal student interest in insects, and positive female STEM role models. We also acknowledge constraints and shortcomings, including set curricula resulting in suboptimal season for pollinator studies; confounding of results due to children’s observations; and being unable to verify the data. We offer recommendations for more robust projects in future, which include collecting specimens to verify results, and measuring learning outcomes. If these recommendations are met, researcher–student projects can engage children in conducting scientific experiments with applications for home and school garden management.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalAustral Ecology
Early online date11 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the Ecological Society of Australia and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for making this project possible and providing financial support to assist the early‐career researchers to conduct this study. We would also like to thank the schools, teachers and students that partnered with and participated in this project: Fremantle Primary School, Renmark Primary School, Red Hill Primary School, Lane Cove Public School and Blackheath Public School.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Ecological Society of Australia

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • artificial flowers
  • citizen science
  • flies
  • pollinators
  • science education
  • urban ecology


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