The Science of Sustainability

Using the Online Photo Community Flickr for Science Education

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This field photo of a California Newt (Taricha torosa)
egg cluster and more are free for educational use

What does the metamorphosis of a butterfly look like? What kinds of creatures live in a tidal pool? And just how big is a shark’s tooth? When questions like these come up in science classrooms, some educators are now using digital images to help students frame responses and connect their classrooms with the real world. And, with advances in digital technologies that enable effortless access to digital images, integrating digital pictures into the curriculum has never been easier.

These are some of the reasons Bay Area science educators like Aaron Vanderwerff are using photo-sharing websites such as Flickr to develop innovative image-based activities for their classrooms. Vanderwerff, a teacher and Science Department Chair at San Lorenzo High School, uploaded sets of pictures to Flickr and asked groups of students to select an image and comment on it. Students’ comments focused on observations about the photos as well as inferences they made about the situation. And more and more educators are using digital photos to change the way their students see science. Other examples of Flickr-based educational activities include encouraging students to create collaborative photo sets, facilitating discussions by writing notes and comments, teaching categories and classifications using tags, and geotagging images to connect them with physical locations on a map.

Flickr also houses an extensive collection of community-contributed digital images, including a large number of photos made available by QUEST through the QUEST Collections and the QUEST Pool. The QUEST Collections contain photos related to QUEST stories and the photos in the QUEST Pool are contributed by people who sign up to join the QUEST Flickr Photo Group. All photos in the QUEST Collections are available for use in educational projects and can be downloaded and modified for free under Creative Commons licensing.

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Jessica Neely

About the Author ()

Jessica, an Oakland native, joined KQED in 2004 for the early stages of QUEST. She has always had a passion for science and holds a Bachelors of Science in Evolution and Ecology from UC Davis. After a stint in the education department at the Sacramento Zoo, she fell in love with science education and completed a single subject teaching credential in Biology and General Science at Mills College. She taught high school science at San Lorenzo High School where she served as Science Department Chair. In addition to working on QUEST, Jessica ran the national educational outreach for the first season of Jean Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Jessica currently supports KQED Education and QUEST remotely from her home in Oregon.