By: Debbie Currie
Data Nuggets: Data analysis can often feel intimidating to K-12 students, especially those with math anxiety. To help instructors engage young learners with scientific data analysis, researchers at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station created Data Nuggets, a series of authentic classroom activities that make use of “messy” scientific data. Developed in collaboration with K-12 educators, these activities bring real data into the classroom. Science teachers can currently browse 54 different Data Nuggets by content level or keyword. Each Nugget is based on the research of a current science graduate student and includes a set of data, a teacher’s guide, a variety of classroom activities, and a grading rubric. For instance, in Dangerously Bold, students learn about the research of Melissa Kjelvik on the “boldness,” or willingness to take risks, of bluegill sunfish. Students must examine data in order to independently evaluate Kjelvik’s hypothesis. Data Nuggets provides students with a unique opportunity to sharpen their mathematical and inference skills while learning about real-world scientific research – and a possible career path for themselves.
EdX: The Extremes of Life: Microbes and their Diversity: Kyoto University offers this open EdX course dedicated to microorganisms and their role in our world. More specifically, this course investigates microbes that are able to survive in extreme environments and temperatures. As the course introduction explains, “Microorganisms are everywhere, and although some are notorious for their roles in human disease, many play important roles in sustaining our global environment.” In this course, anyone can learn more about microbes via video lectures, course readings, and assignments. These materials are divided into four units: Evolution and the Diversity of Life; Life in Boiling Water; Diversity of Extremophiles; and Genome Sequences. Intended for anyone with a middle-school level knowledge of science, this course is self-paced but designed to be completed in about four weeks. Auditing The Extremes of Life is free; students also have the the option to earn a certificate if they pay a course fee.
Global Biodiversity Information Facility: The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) allows “anyone, anywhere to access data about all types of life on Earth, shared across national boundaries via the Internet.” Created in 1999 on the recommendation of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development panel, GBIF functions as a one-stop shop for data from a number of institutions around the world. In the Data section, researchers can access information in a number of ways, including by Country, Dataset, and Species. As of this write up, GBIF includes over 30,000 data sets and data from over 200 countries. While researchers may be most interested in the Data section, members of the general public and science teachers may be most interested in the News section. Here, visitors will find Featured Data Use, which highlights recently published studies that draw on GBIF data.
Thingiverse: Thingiverse, created by the three-dimensional printing company MakerBot, is an online community for “discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable things.” For K-12 and university level instructors with access to 3D printing technology, this website also provides a large collection of free lesson plans for incorporating 3D printing into the classroom. These lessons can be browsed by grade level and subject (including Science, Math, and Engineering, as well as Art and History), or by compliance to national standards (including the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards). Each lesson includes detailed instructions, and many also include accompanying videos to aide in incorporating these resources into the classroom. These engaging, hands-on projects would also make great additions to out-of-school educational settings, including libraries and enrichment programs.