The following poster/article was presented at the C*Sci 2022 virtual conference by Sierra Fisher-Dykman, student intern for the Science Math Resource Center, and Suzi Taylor, SMRC director

Citizen Science at Inclusive Community Camp: a summer STEM experience for youth of all abilities

Inclusive Community Camp, or “ICC,” was created in 2018 at Montana State University by Dr. Jody Bartz. The camp was carefully developed to give students with additional support needs, along with their peers, an authentic summer camp experience. The camp is the first of its kind in the area, and for some students, it is the only summer camp they have ever been able to attend. Nicole Wanago, parent of 7-year-old Perry who has Down syndrome, said that her son has never had a summer camp experience before, because local camps are unable to accommodate his support needs. With a 1:1 adult-to student ratio and free registration for campers, MSU’s Inclusive Community Camp gave Perry the opportunity to interact with peers and participate in camp activities for the first time ever.

ICCwas piloted in 2020 and like the rest of the world, went primarily virtual. Some groups were able to meet outdoors and masked up. Despite unusual circumstances, it was clear that the camp was truly special and fulfilled a huge need in the community.

After the camp’s first year, Jody Bartz connected with MSU colleague Suzi Taylor to brainstorm ways the camp might include STEM alongside its core activities in art and physical movement. Suzi suggested that NASA AREN – with its focus on kite-based Earth observations and citizen science — might be a good fit.

NASA AREN (the AEROKATS and ROVER Education Network)uses cameras and low-cost instruments attached to large kites to gather remotely sensed Earth observations. The project simulates a NASA mission and helps the next generation of scientists and engineers observe and understand our planet Earth through experiential learning while using NASA technology and data in real-world settings. Citizen science is a key component of AREN, as kite pilots, safety officers and other team members submit data from each mission to a shared map via ArcGIS Survey123 and also learn to collect environmental observations such as clouds and land cover with GLOBE Observer.

ICC andNASA ARENcame together in 2021 with aNASA-themed weekat camp, designed by two MSU undergraduate education students, Sierra Fisher-Dykman and Bryce Lingle.The camp designconnected students with authentic NASA STEM materials while providing the NASA AREN team with recommendations on how to make their activities and materials more accessible for all.

Citizen Science was an essential experience for students in the camp, allowing youth who are typically underrepresented in STEM to see themselves as scientists and participate in the scientific process. Camp guides assisted students in using theGLOBE Observerapp, a citizen-science network that gathers data to learn about the environment and changing climate. ICC campers participated in the“Clouds”data collection protocol, helping NASA scientists to understand the quickly changing nature of clouds and their role in weather. With the support of camp guides, students used iPads to photograph clouds and identify cloud type. Campers were excited to receive satellite images from NASA that matched their data from a different vantage point and furthered their sense of belonging in the larger scientific community.

Our camp guidebook had prepared and trained counselors to use GLOBE Observer with students at various complexity levels, and we were fortunate that its app-based interface made it accessible to most ICC campers (with some language/reading support and assistance with fine motor touch skills).

We noted that accessibility could be improved by an internal text-to-speech option within the app, enabling students with visual impairments or specific learning disabilities to participate. We also noted that iPads in shockproof cases were essential. Several adaptive devices were researched and sourced to allow all students to take part in complementary art, writing and making activities.


For many students, ICC was their first-ever summer camp experience. The addition of citizen science helped campers feel part of something even bigger. The successful incorporation of STEM and citizen science into Inclusive Community Camp will continue on into 2022 with the camp theme of WATER.

View a brief slideshow on ICChere.

Contact the authors: 

Sierra Fisher-Dykman[email protected]

Suzi Taylor:[email protected]