Using Real Data in Environmental Science Classes

Students are naturally curious about the world they live in. What better way to satisfy this curiosity than by giving them hands-on opportunities to collect data and find answers to their questions? These resources provide opportunities for students to collect data and to present and analyze their findings. These skills are an important part of the Science as Inquiry strand in the National Science Education Standards.

Down the Drain: How Much Water Do You Use?
In this Internet-based collaborative project, students collect data from their classmates and from members of their own households to determine the average amount of water used by one person in a day. They can share that information with other classes online and compare the average amount of water used per person per day in other parts of the country and the world. The project goes beyond merely collecting data to considering some real questions on wasted water.

Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE)
Students participate in this environmental science program by collecting local data, such as air temperature, cloud cover, and soil moisture content, and posting that data on the web site. The growing body of data is available to both scientists and students. Although only GLOBE-trained teachers can have their students post data on the web site, anyone can view or download the data.

Earth Exploration Toolbook: Using GLOBE Data to Study the Earth System
This site guides students through the process of locating and graphing web-based environmental data that has been collected in the GLOBE program. Basic concepts in Earth science are explored as students investigate a specific case study. The GLOBE Graphing Tool is used to superimpose four different environmental data sets as a single graph to show otherwise hidden relationships. Seasonal changes in soil moisture are highlighted, as are the concepts of reservoirs, the flow or flux of moisture between reservoirs, and the role of solar energy as a driver of this flux.

Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change
In this online project, students share their field observations with other students across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, bald eagles, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.

Using Real Data in Life, Earth, and Physical Sciences Classes

When students interpret data and communicate inferences, they are building skills that will help them solve problems throughout their lives. With the investigations featured in these resources, students will collect data and present and analyze their findings. These skills are an important part of the Science as Inquiry strand in the National Science Education Standards.

Monarch Watch
This network of students, teachers, and researchers is dedicated to the tagging, rearing, and study of the monarch butterfly. Each spring, the network publishes a season summary that contains tag recovery data, tips and ideas for teachers and students, observations on monarch populations, and new information on monarch biology. Other projects include life history studies, flight vector analysis, and butterfly gardening. A K-8 science curriculum titled Monarchs in the Classroom (available through the mail) offers standards-based lessons.

Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble: The International Boiling Point Project
Which do you think has the greatest influence on the boiling point of water: room temperature, elevation, volume of water, or heating device? The answer to this question requires input from people all over the world, and this online collaboration allows your students to enter the investigation. The students will boil water, under controlled conditions, record information, and post it online. They can analyze the data sent in by others worldwide and reach their own conclusions on what makes a pot of water boil.

Musical Plates: A Study of Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics
In this series of lessons, students use real-time data to study the correlation between earthquakes and tectonic plates and to determine whether or not there is a relationship between volcanoes and plate boundaries. The science and the data analysis are demanding but still within the range of upper-level middle school students. Four activities, each designed to be used in a 45-minute class period, teach students how to access and interpret real-time earthquake and volcano data. Three enrichment lessons follow in this teacher-friendly unit.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.