Activities to do at home: Wintertime science outdoors

It may be cold and snowy outside, but there are many fun ways for the whole family to enjoy getting outdoors, and learning about science, too–all while helping professional scientists with their jobs! It’s called Citizen or Community Science, and involves projects in which volunteers–like you!–and scientists work together to answer real-world questions and gather data. From tracking birds to measuring the snowfall in your neighborhood to observing the night sky, there are ways to get involved, get outside, and help out scientists this winter.

  • Observe wildlife and plants year-round and send your findings to scientists. Go to and upload your observations to the website or free app to add them to a global database of biodiversity to support local to global research projects. There are also lots of resources to learn about nature and identify species that you find.
  • While you can view birds and upload your bird viewing observations year-round on iNaturalist, there are 3 days each February when people world wide join together to focus on a global bird count. The Great Backyard Bird Count will be February 12-15, 2021, invites people to spend time in their favorite places watching and counting as many birds as they can find and reporting them. These observations help scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations. Whether you count one bird or hundreds, participating is easy and fun for all ages!
  • Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists–you!–to measure and submit night sky brightness observations. It’s easy to get involved – all you need is computer or smart phone.
  • Help out scientists through CoCoRaHS–Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network–a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities. This one does require participants to purchase a rain gauge. Based at Colorado State University, there are now thousands of volunteers across the world who track precipitation in their neighborhoods.
  • When the weather is just too bad to be outside, you can still participate in wintertime citizen science projects inside through Penguin Watch, where you can count penguins in remote regions to help scientists understand their lives and environment. Watch camera footage of penguins around the world on your computer or device and input your penguin counts and observations for scientists to use.

Photo from Colorado Parks & Wildlife.