Authors: Beth Bisson1, Medea Steinman2, and Esperanza Stancioff1,2
1Maine Sea Grant
2University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Grade level: 7-12
Themes: Mapping, field observation, data collection, graphing, data literacy
Activity type: Field observation and data collection, classroom data analysis
Setting: Outdoors and classroom
Using dandelions, since they are numerous and easy to identify, students learn basic mapping and graphing skills, and practice making sense of the phenology data they have collected.
Students will develop their own research field site, learn to make observations and collect data outdoors, build their own dataset and then will learn to plot graphs of that data. They will also learn to use GPS and mapping tools and resources. They will be asked to make predictions and claims and explain their reasoning, and then try to find evidence to support (or refute) their claims. They will analyze the data according to site variability and will create graphs showing two-group comparisons.
Students are encouraged to infer meaning from the graphs, engage in speculation, and learn to articulate and support claims and conclusions. Students’ graphs can be used as a basis for classroom discussion focused on telling stories with data, and exploring new lines of inquiry.
A3 Unifying Themes – Constancy and Change
6-8. Students describe how patterns of change vary in physical, biological, and technological systems.
B1 Skills and Traits of Scientific Inquiry
6-8. Students plan, conduct, analyze data from, and communicate results of investigations, including simple experiments.
E2 The Living Environment – Ecosystems
6-8. Students examine how the characteristics of the physical, non-living (abiotic) environment, the types and behaviors of living (biotic) organisms, and the flow of matter and energy affect organisms and the ecosystem of which they are part.
B. Data Analysis
7. Students use graphs and charts to represent, organize, interpret, and draw inferences from data.
a. Create tables, pictograms, bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, stem and leaf plots, box and whiskers plots, and histograms using pencil and paper and electronic technologies.
b. Draw conclusions based on graphs and charts including tables, pictograms, bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, stem and leaf plots, box and whiskers plots, and histograms.
8. Students use the mean, median, mode, range, and quartiles to solve problems involving raw data and information from data displays.
9-Diploma. Students understand and know how to describe distributions and find and use descriptive statistics for a set of data.
a. Find and apply range, quartiles, mean absolute deviation, and standard deviation (using technology) of a set of data.
b. Interpret, give examples of, and describe key differences among different types of distributions: uniform, normal, and skewed.
Expectations and Misconceptions: It’s important to mention to students that variability is normal in the natural world. If they do not see changes when they expect to, or among all individuals of the same species, they should be cautioned against leaping to conclusions. Encourage them to think carefully about what they have observed and consider as many explanations as possible.
Note: see Resources section below for links to these items on the Web
And, depending on how you choose to complete the activity:
(assumes minimum grade level and experience)
10. Use the data on the datasheet (in addition to entering it online at www.usanpn.org) and your site characteristic data to graph the timing of your dandelion blooms/seeds against the other site characteristics to test their claims.
11. Ask the students to look at their graphs and check their claims and write why they do (or do not) show the evidence they needed to support their claims. If the graphs don’t support their original claims – do they show any other surprising differences between sites, or other trends they didn’t expect?
12. Ask the students to present their results to the rest of the class/group, and explain what their data show about the dandelion plants they observed. What would they do differently next time? What other claims might they test?
Ask students to interpret the graphs and explain what they show. Engage them in speculation about meaning in the graph. Talk about any other questions the graphs raise. Were there other trends or surprising results? How might they conduct the research differently next time? Point out to them the value of engaging in these kinds of speculations and inquiry and how this process is central to the experience of “doing” science. For any questions that you can’t answer now, how might you find the answers? Do they need additional data to answer their questions? If so, what additional information would be most useful? Often, it is essential to come up with recommendations for further research or inquiry.
Consider expanding the project to include more diversity in study sites, perhaps by partnering with other teachers and students at other schools. Also visit the USA-National Phenology Website and try out the Phenology Visualization Tool (http://www.usanpn.org/results). Here you can download and visualize data, view the map gallery and view historic data sets. You may find other sets of dandelion data in other parts of the country to compare with yours. [We recommend that you complete the Tutorial (http://www.usanpn.org/node/6208) to learn how to make full use of the visualization features.]
Signs of the Seasons (http://umaine.edu/signs-of-the-seasons)
USA National Phenology Network (http://www.usanpn.org)
For assistance contact:
Esperanza Stancioff, Climate Change Educator
University of Maine Cooperative Extension/Maine Sea Grant
207.832.0343; 1.800.244.2104 (in Maine); firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Bisson, Assistant Director for Outreach and Education
Maine Sea Grant College Program
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