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Marine Metre Squared Capability: Critique evidence NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Living world Level : 3,4,5

Marine Metre Squared

This resource illustrates how support materials developed for a “citizen science” project can be used to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to critique evidence in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Investigating in science

Carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things, or developing systems.

L3 & L4:

Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models, and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations.


Begin to evaluate the suitability of the investigative methods chosen.

Living World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource


Understand how living things interact with each other and with the non-living environment.

L3 & L4:

Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human-induced.


Investigate the interdependence of living things (including humans) in an ecosystem.

Learning focus

Students critique data-gathering protocols and develop an appreciation of why such protocols are needed.

Learning activity

The Marine Metre Squared project is a “citizen science” initiative where volunteers gather data for scientists to analyse. In this project volunteers develop a meter-square observation site on a beach and monitor the diversity of living things found there on an ongoing basis.  

Everyone who takes part needs to follow the evidence-gathering protocols developed by the scientists. These protocols provide an accessible opportunity for students to develop their capabilities in critiquing evidence-gathering methodologies.

Adapting the resource

After introducing the nature and purpose of the initiative have students focus on the protocols.

In groups, discuss these instructions and identify all the ways in which the scientists have tried to ensure that results from different people can be fairly compared. Questions students could discuss include:

  • Why is it important that everyone who takes part tries to follow the instructions as best they can?
  • When and how might “unfair” counts happen?
  • Why might the scientists not be especially concerned about small unintended errors or bias in the samples? [They rely on the very large sample to smooth out small errors in counts.]
  • What consequences might there be if too many people were careless or did not try their best to follow the protocols? [To answer this question fully, students might first want to find out what the data are used for.]

If students adopt a metre square for themselves, and carry out and enter the first count on the website created for the project, they could hold a retrospective discussion about how easy or hard they found it to follow the protocols, and how it felt to try to keep to them.

Possible extension: Students could research other citizen science projects to find out how they ensure the data they gather is robust. (See Exploring Further for other citizen science contexts.)

What’s important here?

Citizen science projects are becoming more common as the Internet enables rapid communication, easy gathering of data and automated storage of the data for subsequent analysis by scientists. With the help of many volunteers, scientists can gather data to answer questions that they would not previously have been able to address. However citizen science projects rely on careful adherence to the research protocols by everyone who takes part: this activity could help build a sense of why that is important, as well as alerting students to the possibility of taking part in such projects.  

Developing an appreciation of how evidence in science is generated supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

Can students identify and describe simple research protocols?

Can they explain why these types of protocols are an important aspect of the design of citizen science projects?

Do students show awareness that sticking to protocols requires self-discipline, including honesty and carefulness?

(Combining all three, students might, for example be able to: talk or write about the important role protocols play in research; discuss their own feelings about having to follow protocols; recognise issues related to use of protocols in other contexts, etc.) 

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in critiquing evidence see Progressions .

Exploring further

Other contexts for Citizen Science projects:

The Science Learning Hub has a page about  Citizen scientists , linked to a project to monitor Monarch Butterflies in New Zealand. This project is the basis for another capability 3 resource called Butterfly transects.

The Garden Bird Survey , carried out annually by Landcare Research, has quite detailed counting protocols. See the resource The Garden Bird Survey: Participants’ Stories for capability 4: Making sense of representations about science ideas.

The Citizen Science New Zealand  Tui Project  asks citizen scientists to collect data on tui behaviour over the summer. The data collection involves quite specific attention to the environment. 

Other resources for this capability

Key words

Ecology, rocky shore, citizen science