Citizen Science for All Ages

What is citizen science?

According to National Geographic, “Citizen science is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. […] New networks and communities of interested citizen scientists are created each day to learn more about the world and how we can contribute to understanding it.”

It’s fun to be a citizen scientist using the Savage Kitchen mobile app! Whether you’re a kid, a lifelong forager, or somewhere in between, you can be apart of something bigger, that helps others and the environment both locally and globally. This science contributes to a global database of food security by locating free abundant food while at the same time helping to solve the problem of invasive species.

Looking for some nature-based curriculum for your classroom, homeschool or supplemental activities? Here’s a simple foraging activity for all ages:

Text adapted from recent Maui Mama article by Guri Bigham

As we all recently navigate the changing landscape of education, we’re faced with choices of how technology plays into our children’s learning. Maui mama, Sunny Savage created an app called “Savage Kitchen” which meets us in the middle – a free educational tool to get us outside while foraging for local nutritious wild food! 

“Many of us have edible invasive species within a short distance of our homes. The accessibility of these plants, and the wide range of ways they can be fit into home education activities, have made them a regular part of my own children’s homeschool education.” ~ Founder, Sunny Savage.

There have been many conversations about our food security in Hawai’i. Do you know where our food comes from? What are some food plants you can find growing in the wild? Which plants are invasive, and which are native? The Savage Kitchen App can teach you.

Java Plum trees, for example, are edible and invasive, so you can help to prevent their further spread by eating them. You get to become a citizen-scientist by putting invasive food plants on the map! With the Savage Kitchen app you can learn how to identify a Java Plum tree by watching the video, looking at photos, reading the descriptions, and even taking the quiz. Then it’s time for a scavenger hunt! Your treasure map is found in the maps tab, just look for the purple pins for Java Plum.

Once you find a tree, you are invited to use your senses of sight, touch, and smell for identification. Harvest some leaves and use the recipe below any time of year, even when the tree is not bearing plums.

‘Awa Reghi is proud of her Java leaves harvest! – photo by Guri Bigham

Java Water Recipe

  • 5 Java Plum leaves
  • 1 Quart drinking water

Step 1 – Harvest leaves and rinse them.

Step 2 – Give the leaves a slight crush with your hand and place them into your water.

Step 3 – Let sit for at least 10 minutes before drinking or store in the refrigerator overnight.

You can also dry the leaves to make a fruity aromatic tea; the medicinal benefits of java plum include anti-diabetic and antioxidant. Did you find some java plum fruit? Get inspired with dozens more Java Plum recipes in the Savage Kitchen App!

Now that you know how to identify Java Plum, keep your eye out for new trees so you get to drop your very own pin with your name!


The learning and activities continue with each of the plants in the Savage Kitchen App – Strawberry Guava, Butterfly Ginger, Wild Amaranth, Spanish Needles! This infographic is a helpful addition to educational materials:

5-Edible-Invasive-Plants-in-Hawaii

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