Citizen Scientist Program — The Great Sunflower Project

Pollinators are animals that help many plants reproduce. These are necessary components of many habitats and ecosystems. They are also needed to grow a majority of our food including fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Some examples of pollinators are bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, ants, birds, and bats.

Scientific studies have suggested that the bees are disappearing. How is this affecting pollination of our gardens, crops, and the wilderness? The Great Sunflower Project is a citizen science project started in 2008 to gather information about bees and other pollinators in cities, suburbs, and rural areas across the country.    

The Children’s Science Center has teamed up with the Great Sunflower Project this Summer to count pollinators in our area.  Become a Citizen Scientist and help us by observe the pollinators where you live or play.

How Do I become a Citizen Scientist?

1. Register to participate here.

2.  Conduct count.

3.  Submit your data! Enter your data on the Great Sunflower Projects website.

Making Observations:

There are several ways that you can take counts of pollinators detailed on The Great Sunflower website.  However, for the Summer of Science program, the Children’s Science Center is encouraging only the Stationary Count, where you count the number of pollinators that visit a particular plant for a set period of time.  Follow these
simple steps:

  1. Record the date, time, and your location.
  2. Choose a flowering plant. Write down the type of plant (either the common or scientific name). Write down the number of flowers on that plant that you are going to watch. Some plants have a lot of flowers, spikes or bunches of flowers, so select the ones that you will watch and count the number of flowers.
  3. Choose the amount of time that you will watch and write that down. Try to count for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Start your counts. Record the number of times that pollinators visit your flower(s). If you can, write down the type of pollinator – if you know that it is a bee, write that down. If you are certain of the specific species, write that down. It is important to be as accurate as you can in your records.  Sometimes pollinators leave and come back to the same flower. If this happens, then count each time it comes back. The point is to count the number of visits to the flower in a window of time.
  5. Enter the data.  Visit the Great Sunflower Projects website. (For step-by-step directions)

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is the Summer of Science Project?

A: The Summer of Science Project is a citizen science project sponsored by the Children’s Science Center in partnership with the Great Sunflower Project. Your role is to identify pollinators in your area. This is combined with other observations to study pollinators across the US and over time.

Q: When can my family participate?

A: The Children’s Science Center is encouraging participation in the Great Sunflower Project over the summer months (i.e., June through August 2017).

Q: What do we need to do?

A: Register to participate in the Children’s Science Center Citizen Scientist Project. Conduct counts of pollinators and enter the data on the Great Sunflower Project website.


Information about pollinators:

Learn about all of the different insects/animals  that are pollinators 
How to tell the difference between apart bees, wasps and flies

General bee types of Virginia

Bumble bees of the Eastern US

Butterflies of Northern Virginia and Washington DC

Moths of Northern Virginia

Information about flowering plants:

Pollination and Fertilization

Match flowers and pollinators game


Plant a window box for pollinators

Gardening for types of pollinators or here

Make a bee waterer with marbles or rocks  or even wine corks

Make a bee home for native bees

Preserving wildflowers


Learn more about the Citizen Scientist Movement.