Arctic systems and seasons: Braiding culture, art, STEM, and community through year-round Arctic citizen science

Project Update

This project has developed into a major citizen science research project in rural Alaska. A recent article about it was published in Witness the Arctic.


Our project aimed to develop a year-long interdisciplinary, culturally responsive unit of study that braids citizen science throughout the seasonal cycle with art, Gwich’in language, math, culture, and community service. To do this, John Fredson School teacher Terri Mynatt and University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist Katie Spellman partnered to engage students in the early primary grades in a year-round suite of citizen science monitoring projects using Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE). They also piloted a new UAF citizen science program called Winterberry, now fully launched throughout Alaska. Students tracked changes in the clouds, weather, temperature, soil active layer, and berry abundance throughout the year, supported by learning activities across the disciplines and visits from “Dr. Katie.”

Our expected outcomes for k-2 students in Venetie include: (1) increased science identity and science enthusiasm; (2) Increased participation in professional science practices; (3) increased perception of connections between components of the Arctic system, such as connections between weather, soil and plants and animals; and (4) increased understanding of connections between science, their own lives, and their community.

Read more about the project's recent participation in the Alaska GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Learning Expedition here:
Alaska students share real-life climate change experiences at international event, Article in IARC Latest News and Upcoming Events by Heather McFarland, 6 September 2018.

Project Location

Seasonal Activity Calendar and Matching Circular Citizen Science Graph

Seasonal activity calendar
Type: Resource
Date(s): 20 September 2017
Location: Venetie, AK

By Terri Mynatt and Katie Spellman

We created this learning tool to match the seasonal subsistence activity calendar to the student's own activities and their citizen science monitoring projects. The circular graph allows students to see connections between the soil active layer, berry phenology, and air temperature.

Seasonal activity calendarSeasonal activity calendar Seasonal activity calendarSeasonal activity calendar

Winterberry Citizen Science Protocol

Berry monitoring
Type: Weblink
Date(s): 1 September 2017
Location: Venetie, Alaska
Link: Winterberry

By Katie Spellman and Christa Mulder

Terri Mynatt and Katie Spellman piloted this protocol with the K-2 students and they refined it based on their observations. Venetie and The Arctic in the Classroom partnership was one of four pilot locations for the protocol.

Winterberry Citizen Science Berry BINGO

(In English and Gwich'in Languages)

Type: Resource
Date(s): 1 September 2017
Location: Venetie, AK

By Katie Spellman and Mary Rose Gamboa

We developed this game to serve as a training tool for identifying the types and categories of berries in the Winterberry Citizen Science berry monitoring protocol, and a Gwich’in vocabulary learning tool. We also used it as a community engagement tool in our community berry science night, with berry themed bingo markers and berry themed prizes, of course!

Arctic Citizen Science

Type: Presentation
Date(s): 1 April 2017
Location: Boulder, CO
Link: Presentation

Conference presentation at Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Solutions, April 2017, UCAR Campus, Boulder, CO

  • Katie Spellman presented the TAC project in Venetie as an example of culturally responsive, collaborative citizen science work with youth in Indigenous communities.

From Data to Action: A project example from Venetie, AK, grades K-2

Data to Action
Type: Presentation
Date(s): 20 June 2017
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Link: Venetie Berry Project

Presentation at Climate Change and My Community Workshop, June 2017, UAF Main Campus, Fairbanks, Alaska
Terry and Katie co-presented their project to the participants in the Climate Change and My Community workshop at UAF, June 2017. They detailed the process of using citizen science and data to motivate youth to action helping their community prepare for less-certain berry harvests.


Figure 1. The importance of winter fruits. (A) Two ripe and one rotten fruits of Viburnum edule (highbush cranberry) in fall. (B) Highbush cranberry plant in early November. (C) Highbush cranberry fruits in May, after snowmelt. (D) A highbush cranberry cache made by an unidentified animal (possibly a vole). (E) Bear feces full of highbush cranberry seeds. (F) The contents of the crop of a ptarmigan in mid-winter filled with Vaccinium vitis-idaea (lingonberry) fruits. Photo courtesy credits: (A) A. Ruggles.
The Alaska-wide citizen science Winterberry network explores the cultural and nutritional importance of plant species that retain their fruits into the fall and throughout the winter to communities across the Arctic. Community volunteers help collect data to support the investigation of questions related to how earlier spring flowering and longer falls might impact harvest and consumption.


1 June 2016 to 1 June 2018


Venetie, Alaska

Additional Websites


Lead Scientist

Organizer Photo

Katie Spellman

International Arctic Research Center (University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Lead Educator

Organizer Photo

Terri Mynatt

John Fredson School

Gwich'in Language Teacher and Community Collaborator

Mary Rose Gamboa

John Fredson School

Collaborating Educator

Chris Villano


Collaborating Scientist

Organizer Photo

Elena Sparrow

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Collaborating Scientist

Christa Mulder

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States