Rubrics used in your classroom

I would like to see if anyone would be willing to share any rubrics they may use with inaturalist in their classroom. I think there is so much potential with this website/app combo but want to ensure that it is more than just students going out, taking a picture, and letting the technology do everything else and they call it a day.

Please review this guide before integrating inaturalist into your classroom. Its an amazing tool for education, but its important to go about it properly


I am a teacher, this would be a great reference tool for students to use. It is also a community of naturalists who share a wide range of expertise and knowledge. But, I am not sure how you would use this website and app as an assessment of and for learning with rubrics. What curriculum connections and assessment tools would you be referring to?

BTW, you are right, it is much more than just posting pictures and waiting for the algorithm to determine the identification. I spend a lot of time cross-referencing with field guides, and other internet resources, asking for and sharing identification with those passionate enough on iNat to offer their expertise. It’s an awesome learning platform. It is also a great tool for data collection, mapping, learning about taxonomy, biodiversity, nonnative and invasive species etc. But, as far as I know, I think you would have to create curriculum connections yourself including your own, lesson plans, assessments and rubrics. Good luck with this. Maybe there are other teachers on iNat that might be able to help you.

Not sure if this helps but my friend gives an iNat assignment for his Bio undergrads each semester. The metric is diversity: he has them find I think 12 phyla (doable in Los Angeles), x-number of families, etc. He doesn’t insist that they are identified to species, at least not for insects. It’s more to get them looking and forcing them to go to multiple places. I think it requires 50 observations total. It isn’t hard to do, except you need to go to the tidepools there to get enough phyla, so with time management it is apparently not a problem.


wow…that would be a great assignment.

Mainly I see this as a supplement to my class, trying to foster interest, exploration and a better understanding of classification by aiding in putting some things taught in class into practice. It also helps expose them to the idea of the connections between living things and that there are communities out there that they can get involved in if it truly strikes their interest. I have seen a few rubrics online that I am working with to create my own. Mainly I thought I would use this forum to see if anyone had something I had not seen or had not thought of yet.

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yes, most rubrics I have seen seem to focus on diversity. Thinking that I might try to incorporate a few other things such as season, temperature, environment, but I don’t want to over complicate the assignment. I want it to provide some challenge but at the same time I don’t want to kill a possible growing interest by making it too daunting of a task.

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A bit related topic to fostering interest: Long term student engagement with iNaturalist (what students do after the class is over)

My friend has had the same issue. He’s also learned if individuals are bad with time management they tend to fail. He’s always trying emphasize it.

sometimes i wonder how folks integrate general observing in iNat into classrooms at all, given that not all students will necessarily have the equipment for observing, or else they will have unequal access to such equipment.

it seems to me like if there’s going to be a class that integrates iNaturalist into the curriculum, it should be based on identifying or getting data out of the system, where there’s less likely to be a disparity in access to equipment. a class that is conducted in a computer lab or where each child gets a laptop to do the work will allow them to all have the same hardware to start with.

so, for example, a web programming class that incorporates the iNat API seems like a natural fit. in a class of 24, have some of the students build different web components – 6 can build form inputs (taxon selectors, place selectors, project selectors), 6 can build maps, 6 can build observation lists or widgets, 6 can build photo galleries, and then folks who finish early can build graphs an charts for extra credit. then in the next phase, the students can each then select from those components to build their own websites about their favorite organisms or natural places.

i also thought that iNat would be a good resource for multidisciplinary curriculum. for example, if you have a class in South Texas where Citrus is a major ag crop, you could tie together an economics class, government class, and an ecology class by focusing on, say, the Asian psyllid that spreads Citrus greening. you could map out where there are citrus farms, compare that to observations of the Psyllid in iNat over time, and compare that to the laws and regs dealing with citrus quarantine to see if they all match or where there are gaps, and try to figure out the economic cost and impact of the proper monitoring / control of the invasives… or something like that. (i was thinking that by the time students would be taking economics, government, and ecology, that would be a good age for them also potentially be using iNat, but then i thought that it’s not necessarily likely they would be taking all 3 classes at the same time – so maybe it’s best suited for independent study or that sort of thing.)


The classes I am considering incorporating iNaturalist in is all Juniors and Seniors. What do you think is a reasonable number of species to expect? How many does your friend expect?

We are 1 to 1 at my school. I will have to survey what other forms of tech are available to my students when my school starts later this month. I like your ideas about having some students having other responsibilities. I know my state’s conservation department has field guides that could be worked with to aid in their assignments and if I could find a big map of our county laminated that could be easy to put pins in for a big visual for locations. These are ideas I hadn’t thought of yet so I appreciate it.

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Personally I think this is outstanding, particularly considering the demographic and also the length of time most people probably stay involved with any app, etc.

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Junior and seniors in college or High School? That immediately makes a big difference.
He teaches this for part of his Biology for Non-Majors class of undergrads I believe, which would mostly be freshmen. It’s been useful during the pandemic as a remote-learning tool as well. It makes a hefty chunk of their grade.

It also depends on where you live. He requires a specific number of Phyla, but he lives in Pasadena, California, and you can’t get that many without having access to the ocean that his students do.

If you DM/message me I can talk to you about it in more detail and help you figure out what would be good goals based on where you teach and the grade. As with a lot of things, what is reasonable can be relative. :-)

Interesting point. Without going on a tangent, his college places a huge emphasis on making sure projects and classes are fully (as possible) equal-opportunity for different socio-economic groups. Generally if you have a smart phone, you can do the project he assigns, but I assume equipment can be provided to those who need it to complete the project (point and shoot and a computer at school). Otherwise you can’t assign it. He’s never mentioned running into that problem to me.
That said, it’s a biology class and this project in particular is based on actively going out and pursuing diversity of organisms. It isn’t a computer programming class. What you’re describing sounds more like a rather upper-level graduate class, especially for biology students. It sounds really interesting in the context of that field, but it wouldn’t be what the original purpose of the project is. Think 7th grade insect collection at a higher level. I could NEVER do what you are describing, even with my biology background, some programming and at a Ph.D. level.

A multidisciplinary approach would be quite interesting and I have advocated to create a class like that to combine GIS and iNaturalist data. This combines my two backgrounds and I think it is exceptionally useful for biologists to know how to use GIS for analysis of biological systems. Unfortunately given that I’m just starting out on my own program, designing and teaching even an advanced seminar is something that I’ve been told would need to be put on hold for a while. Ce la vie.

iNat is a fantastic tool and can be applied to so many different aspects of teaching. I never would have though of an API programming class like you describe and I think it would be amazing in it’s own context!

@kueda Just out of curiosity, you know the kind of work I do, and I’m sure the research of many others. Did you ever imagine that iNaturalist would become what it has?


i actually wasn’t even envisioning this being used for a biology class at all. in my state, general biology is taught in the freshman year in high school, and frankly, i think that may be too early for kids to be using iNat (specifically, the observing function of iNat) as an entire class. advanced biology is an elective for older students, but i think that gets more into processes and structures, where i think iNat is a less good fit. i think it’s possible to incorporate iNat into things like viewing organisms under a microscope, but i think it would be used more for enrichment or extra credit, rather than as a core part of the lesson.

now, if we’re talking about something like an ecology class, then i can see Nat being integrated a little more fully into the coursework. for example, a classic lesson for such a class would be to go to a stream and monitor water quality by collecting and identifying organisms found in the water. this is a kind of lesson where i think iNat could be used to both as a means for identifying the organisms and for immediately turning the students’ work into a meaningful contribution to the collective knowledge about that particular body of water, especially if different classes sample the same stream over many years.

yup. i think the most interesting thing about iNat in the classroom is that when you go beyond just the observing function of iNat, it can be used in many kinds of classrooms. i can think of lots of different ways to integrate iNat into Mixed Media Art / Design classes or independent study, Music classes or independent study, Writing classes, and maybe even certain language classes.

i definitely agree that learning how to do some computer-aided mapping is a very useful skill for students. in high school, though, i think the most logical introduction to such mapping really should occur in a government class (assuming the existing teachers could be taught the skill themselves to a level where they could turn around and teach students).

i think iNat could be a good resource for teaching mapping, but i sort of think that the system’s stock mapping interface is good enough for a general biology course, and then custom mapping – where the real skill would be taught, i think – is more appropriate for something like an ecology or environmental science class, which i think would generally be electives (and so would have less broad reach than, say, a government class that everyone is required to take before graduation).

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I agree,
The idea of a GIS/Biological pattern analysis class is something I’ve been thinking of as an elective or seminar at the upper graduate level at a university. GIS is not a high school level class. Explaining their use, yes, designing no, using them for complex analysis, definitely not.