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.


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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.