Data Discovery Lessons

The lessons posted on this site were designed to engage students with real-world data relevant to content taught in middle school and high school science courses, and to foster an understanding of ways in which they might gather organize, analyze and interpret the data in order to draw scientifically valid inferences, interpretations and conclusions. Most of the labs use computer-based technology of spreadsheet programs or the Python programming interface. The Python lessons guide students in computational thinking to create simple programs to manipulate data. The lessons also provide students (and teachers) with instructions and guidance in the use of these technologies. Teacher and Student worksheets, as well as any supporting files, are linked to from links at the top of each lesson webpage as well as from the downloads page ("downloads" link on the scrolling menu to the left).

Brief descriptions of each lesson:

Soap Box Derby Dataset

Subject: Physics
Grades levels: 6 - 8
Students roll vehicles down and inclined plane placed at various heights and measure distance traveled. Recorded and graphed data reveals an unexpected data trend (due to friction force).
• Uses graphing paper or spreadsheet

Phases of the Moon and Tides

Subject: Physics
Grades levels: 6 - 8
Description: Data pattern recognition exercise where students compare the two daily datasets (for one month) to find relationships.
• Uses a spreadsheet dataset provided

Latitude, Angle of Sun and Solar Energy

Subject: Astronomy & Physics
Grades levels: 6 - 10
Description: Students massage (by sorts) spreadsheet data to tease out the relationships between latitude, angle of the sun, surface area of light beam and temperature. Also introduces possible confounding variable of elevation and the need to control for elevation.
• Uses data in a spreadsheet (provided) and flashlight beam lab or Sketchup file to see light surface area increase or decrease with angle change.

Exploring the Solar System Dataset

Subject: Astronomy & Physics
Grades levels: 6 - 12
Description: students create a spreadsheet (or use the one provided) to gather planet data and put in categories. They massage spreadsheet to tease out relationship between distance from sun and revolution speed. They use data to predict speed and/or distance for Ceres, the new dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter.
• Uses a spreadsheet program (or file).

Build-your-own Valence Finder

Subject: Chemistry & Computational Thinking
Grades levels: 6 - 12
Description: By building a program to determine the valence of ANY element on the first three rows of the Periodic table, students learn the steps to solve the problem while learning how to program logic and think about processing data in sequence. NOTE: The worksheet includes the option of letting students create a bug that they have to fix.
• Uses Python 2.7 programming interface which needs to be installed on computers.

Build-your-own Hardy Weinberg Calculator

Subject: Biology
Grades levels: 7 - college

Description: Using this lesson worksheet, computers and a simple programming interface, students step through and build a simple program to sequentially calculate all of the variables in the Hardy Weinberg equations. By building the program in sequence it is hoped that students will learn the sequence to solve a Hardy Weinberg problem and appreciate the value and power of computer number crunching capabilities as well as sequential programming considerations.
• Uses Python 2.7 programming language which needs to be installed on computers.

Hardy Weinberg Calculator Extensions

Subject: Biology
Grades levels: 7 - college

Description: "Pre" extension - The first extension creates programming to ask the user for values that are needed to figure out the frequency of individuals showing the recessive trait. This is THE one number needed to calculate all the other frequencies. The frequency of individuals showing the recessive trait is the only one that can be observed in a population BUT it is not always given in the word problem.
"Post" extension - The second will take the frequencies and apply them to an actual population number to generate actual numbers of individuals of the 3 genotypes and numbers of each allele … in that population.

Creative Commons license
Data Discovery Lessons by Mark Wenning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.