Observations and data from nature

Science Scope coverThe word “data” for some people conjures up pages of numbers or a dreadful experience in statistics class. But get rid of the deer-in-the-headlights look and dig into lessons focused on forensics, snow, fruit flies, and Down syndrome. The protocols, rubrics, and examples can help you work with students in this critical inquiry process.

I’ve been trying to learn more bird songs, from CDs and other media. So I was blown away by the idea of learning insect sounds as described in Exploring Sound with Insects. It was fascinating to read how the authors combined the physics of sound with an investigation in biology. I downloaded the software Raven Lite (free!) from Cornell University and spent an entire evening “playing around” with it and with the sound resources listed at the end of the article. The authors describe how to use the software to record and analyze insect songs, but it seems like the software could be used to record and analyze musical sounds or environmental sounds, too. The whole lesson looks fascinating, and if you’re concerned about learning the software, perhaps a few students could become familiar with it and do a demonstration for the class? (For background resources on sound, check out SciLinks with the keywords “sound” and “communication”)

With many of us in the grips of winter weather, perhaps a virtual exploration of Hawaii would be interesting. The lesson described in Predicting the Timing and Location of the Next Hawaiian Volcano shows students how to extract data from maps, diagrams, and tables and how to analyze the data by looking for trends and patterns. For background information for this lesson, check out SciLinks with the keywords “volcano” and “ring of fire” – a great way to integrate concepts in earth science and geography.

As someone who actually enjoys statistics, I was intrigued by the article Is Knowledge Random? Introducing Sampling and Bias Through Outdoor Inquiry. My state includes statistics in the math standards, so this lesson could be a way to show students some practical connections between science and math. I’ll share this with a math colleague.

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