Education/Newsletter/February 2017/Citizen Science and biodiversity in school projects on Wikispecies, Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons

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Citizen Science and biodiversity in school projects on Wikispecies, Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons


Author: Mina Theofilatou

Students Spyros, Giorgos, Maria, their instructor Mina, Rodamanthi, Evangelia and Katerina in the Argostoli Evening School computer lab.
Shai Katz (Israel) and Mina Theofilatou (Greece) meet at Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario, Italy.
Maria added the vernacular names of wild flora species in Greek to Wikispecies.

Summary: Argostoli Evening School has been active on the Wikimedia projects for ten years now. This year's tenth-grade project on the wild flora of Kefalonia introduces the principles of Citizen Science to school projects by getting the students involved in editing Wikispecies and exploring biodiversity

Article: In February 2013 the Argostoli Evening High School communicated its projects for school year 2012-13 on the Wikimedia Blog. The international community reacted with enthusiasm, suggesting that the wild flora project in particular displayed interesting scope for applying Citizen Science principles to school projects and exploring biodiversity in the Mediterranean region. The project was titled “Wild flora of Kefalonia: Survival and Relish” and its goal was to record as many edible plant species growing wild on the island as possible.

The tenth-grade students of the Evening School decided for semester one of school year 2016-17 to pick up on the same subject, and expand it into new directions by enriching the existing gallery on Commons and entering related data on Wikispecies and Wikidata. This was our first time ever on the latter WM projects and despite lacking experience and time – all edits were performed in one seventy-minute session per week for twelve weeks – we can proudly announce that we have entered the Greek vernacular names of twenty plant species to Wikispecies and twenty-five edits (Greek labels and aliases) to existing entries on Wikidata. Our field work involved taking photos of more species to add to the gallery. Finally, we tried to complete as many “photo sets” as possible in the existing gallery in the format “plant species in nature – edible part(s) – processed food product” (16 species now have a full set of photos - “from the field to the table” - and more will follow).

In December 2016 Shai Katz extended Mina Theofilatou an invitation to speak to an audience of twenty Israeli elementary school teachers about her projects at the Evening School in the context of a teacher course, led by Wikimedia Israel together with the Israeli Center for Educational Technology and the Israeli Ministry of Education. The video-conference session was held on December 27 and the teachers were primarily interested in the wild flora project: Israel is also situated in the Mediterranean basin and their primary school students could embark on a similar project involving field work in their own natural settings. Several schools could then join forces to extract conclusions on biodiversity. In the same context, another international collaboration was discussed between Mina and schoolteacher Bojana Podgorica from the Wikimedia Community of Republic of Srpska: both Greece and Srpska Republic are situated in the Balkans, and a joint exploration of biodiversity in the wild flora could lead to interesting conclusions!

For semester two the students of Argostoli Evening School have ambitious plans: following the success of last year's semester two project on App Inventor, they plan to build an app with the data they collected on the wild flora of their island. The result of our first brainstorming session was to design a guide indicating which wild plants are in season depending on the month of the year, using the gallery photos (offline version for field use, as many users do not have mobile data plans) and linking to existing articles in Wikipedia for further information (online version). With the positive feedback from the Israeli community, it would be a good idea if we designed the app to work in English as well: the Israeli students could use it as a tool in their own endeavor. What's more, App Inventor is licensed under CC-BY-SA and code can be shared in the gallery, thus facilitating the development of an app in Hebrew, or in any other language. The possibilities are endless when the international community works together in harmony to explore similarities and share the most precious resource of all: KNOWLEDGE.

Read more about the Wikipedia Education Program at the Argostoli Evening School in Greece here.

Tags: Wikispecies, Wikidata, Wikipedia Education Program in Greece