Finding the Data Nugget You Need by Math and Science Content

Not sure which Data Nugget to use next? With over 60 activities to choose from, sometimes it’s difficult to find time to read though all the descriptions and pick one that will fit your needs. From your feedback we’ve learned that you’d like to search by key science and math content within each activity. In response we created a searchable table on our website (under the “Current Data Nuggets” tab on our homepage) that will hopefully help you find the Data Nuggets that best suit your needs!

This table allows you to pick from the 60+ activities we’ve co-developed with scientists and search by the following criteria:

  • Content readability level (Flesch-Kincaid reading grade)
  • Science concepts / keywords
  • Quantitative concepts / statistics
  • Type of graph used in the activity
  • Type of variable (categorical, continuous)
  • Type of data source (raw, summarized), including a note when the full large data set is available when requested

In addition to this table, we have a few other ways you can search for Data Nuggets on our website. Other criteria you can search for include: activity summary and study location (“View in searchable table”), study area (“View on map”), and by scientist (“Meet the scientists!”). Our next step will be to include links to the key NGSS core ideas and scientific and engineering practices, so be on the lookout for that in the near future!

Written by May Lee, Data Nugget Researcher

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Living Laboratories: Using islands to track natural selection in wild lizards

This post is by MSU postdocs Melissa Kjelvik and Liz Schultheis, and BEACON education director Louise Mead. See the original article on the BEACON website (reproduced below):

Aaron with a baby anole lizard.

The National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) annual Professional Development Conference provides biology educators from across the nation the opportunity to join other leaders in biology and life science education for four days of renowned speakers, hands-on workshops, informative sessions, and special events. In November 2017 the BEACON Center partnered with the American Society of Naturalists to sponsor a special symposium highlighting cutting edge evolutionary research and introducing attendees to a new study system, research questions, and related resources they could incorporate into their classrooms.

This year’s Evolution Symposium: Emerging Research in Evolutionary Biology at NABT featured a research talk by Dr. Robert Cox (Bob) on selection and fitness in anole lizards, followed by a Data Nugget activity highlighting data from his research. Bob, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Virginia, studies these charismatic lizards, native to Cuba and the Bahamas. He describes anoles as “ecological popcorn” because they are so abundant and are eaten by many organisms. In Florida, where the anoles are invasive, you can shake a bush and 10 will fall out! Bob shared an amazing talk describing his lab’s research on brown anoles and the challenges and opportunities of studying natural selection in the wild. Bob uses real-time studies of wild animal populations to understand the ecological basis of natural selection as it happens. He chose to work with anoles because they are ideal organisms for studies of natural selection; they are abundant, easy to catch, and have short lifespans.

When Charles Darwin talked about the “struggle for existence” he was making the observation that many individuals in the wild don’t survive long enough to reach adulthood. Many die before they have the chance to reproduce and pass on their genes to the next generation. Darwin also noted that in every species there is variation in physical traits such as size, color, and shape. Is it simply that those who survive to reproduce are lucky, or do these traits affect which individuals have a greater or lesser chance of surviving? While evolutionary biology is often viewed as a historical science, exploring processes that have played out over millions of years, Bob stressed that natural selection, the primary force of adaptive evolution, is happening all the time and can be measured in natural populations! Along with field studies, Bob and his lab use genetic methods to help them track the reproductive success of thousands of individuals across multiple generations. Experimental manipulations of predators and competitors also help in understanding the ecological basis of natural selection.

An anole lizard on the island, about to be captured by Aaron.

The talk was followed by a hands-on workshop, led by Aaron Reedy, Elizabeth Schultheis, and Melissa Kjelvik, where participants worked together as students on two Data Nugget activities. This open time gives teachers the opportunity to have discussions about connections to educational standards or pedagogical strategies that are helpful for them to translate the research and associated data back to their classroom settings. Data Nuggets (http://datanuggets.org) are free classroom activities, designed to improve the scientific and quantitative abilities of K-16 students by providing them with authentic data collected by practicing scientists. The research in Data Nuggets on the anole lizards focused on two traits – their size, and their dewlaps. The Data Nuggets take students through the process of exploring two different hypotheses.  In Part I students calculate and graph %survival of lizards according to their size at the beginning of the season, to explore the hypothesis that size influences survival and overall fitness.  In Part II, students graph % survival as a function of dewlap size. The dewlap is an extendable red and yellow flap of skin on their throat. To communicate with other brown anoles, they extend their dewlap and move their head and body. Males have particularly large dewlaps, which they often display in territorial defense against other males and during courtship with females. Females have much smaller dewlaps and use them less often. This trait comes with a trade off – while it attracts the desired attention of females, it also attracts predators. There could be sexual selection favoring this trait, while natural selection works against it.

In these and other Data Nugget activities, students read background information on a study system and scientist, graph and interpret authentic data from their research, and use their graphs to construct explanations based on sound reasoning and evidence. By relying on authentic research and data, Data Nuggets’ innovative approach reveals to students how the process of science really works, while building their quantitative abilities and interest in science. One teacher from the workshop shared that, “the beauty of the activity is in the simplicity,” which is a great testament to Bob and Aaron’s ability to take complex evolution research and distill it down to a core message. The Data Nuggets include the story behind Aaron and Bob’s research to further engage students in the journey taken by the scientist as they formulated their research questions and ideas.

For more information, and to check out the talk slides and Data Nuggets, check out this page. To learn more about Bob and the research in his lab, check out his webpage, and to learn more about Aaron’s research and outreach, check out his website.

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NABT 2017 – BEACON Evolution Symposium

For more information on the NABT 2017 conference, check out their website, here.

For more information on the 2017 Evolution Symposium, check out our blog post here.

Want to learn more about cutting-edge evolution research? Looking for a way to bring more data into your classroom? If so, come check out the Evolution Symposium: Emerging Research in Evolutionary Biology at this year’s NABT Conference! This year’s symposium will begin with a talk by Dr. Robert Cox, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Virginia, whose lab studies these charismatic lizards, native to Cuba and the Bahamas. While evolution is often viewed in a historical sense, playing out over millions of years, Robert’s research focuses on evolution in action that can be observed today. The talk will be followed by a hands-on workshop, led by Aaron Reedy; Dr. Elizabeth Schultheis; and Dr. Melissa Kjelvik, where participants will go through a Data Nugget activity that can be used to help bring this data back to their classrooms.

The materials from the Data Nugget workshop are as follows:

Workshop organized and presented by: Robert Cox, Aaron ReedyElizabeth Schultheis, Melissa Kjelvik, and Louise Mead

BEACON CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF EVOLUTION IN ACTION, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY, THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NATURALISTS, & UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

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Data Nuggets: Inspired by teachers, created using authentic research data

This post is by Data Nugget researchers Liz Schultheis and Melissa Kjelvik. See the original article on the MSTA Newsletter website (reproduced below):

Back when we were biology graduate students, we were first exposed to science education through the GK-12 program at the Kellogg Biological Station. We were each assigned a partner teacher who would mentor us as we taught lessons and shared our research with students for the first time. The experience of standing up in front of 30 middle school students was definitely intimidating! Initially we struggled to simplify and explain our research, while also making it engaging for an audience who may never have thought about these ideas before. However we quickly improved as the teachers stood in the back of the classroom and waved their arms when students checked out because we’d used too much jargon or started to nerd-out. They pushed us to describe why the things we were doing day-to-day mattered for the big picture. The teachers’ infectious enthusiasm boosted the passion we had for our research. Working with these teachers and their students quickly became our favorite time of the week.

These same teachers shared that their students were struggling when faced with data from classroom inquiry projects that turned out messy or did not follow predictions. Typically, students are only exposed to research and data published in textbooks, leading to the misconception that all science is a completed product with well established ideas and clear results. As graduate students we had access to tons of messy data from our own dissertations, and we felt by sharing our research stories we might be able to help students realize that when doing “real science” things are bound to be unexpected and unclear. Over time, we developed Data Nuggets from these ideas. Data Nuggets are classroom activities that bring students through the entire process of science, sharing the story of the scientist behind the data and an authentic dataset from their work. Students are challenged to graph and interpret the data, determining whether the data supports the scientist’s hypothesis or what future research would be necessary to fully answer their questions. Data Nuggets are also a way for us to share what we learned as GK-12 fellows with other scientists, as we guide them through the process of creating a Data Nugget of their own.

This past summer we were lucky to work with some of these same teachers again. As a group we read through student responses to Data Nuggets. This was a powerful way to identify areas we could improve to encourage deep student thinking and rich classroom discussions. While reading student responses, the teachers collectively noticed that students had a difficult time using evidence to support their claims, so they developed a tool to scaffold students into this process. To learn more about Data Nuggets and the tool they developed, make sure to come to our MSTA workshop Data Nuggets: Scaffolding claim-evidence-reasoning using real data in context.

As we continue to develop Data Nuggets, we are exploring the challenges and opportunities created when using real data in the classroom. Today we have 54 Data Nuggets (and counting) on our website, freely available and used by thousands of teachers and students. We are currently funded on a National Science Foundation Discovery Research pre-K-12 grant. The main objective of the collaborative grant, between MSU and Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), is to assess whether Data Nuggets increase students’ quantitative reasoning abilities, along with their understanding of, and engagement with, science.

NABT 2016 – BEACON Evolution Symposium

The color polymorphism in bluefin killifish – males display anal fins in blue, red, or yellow.

Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish

For more information on the NABT 2016 conference, check out their website, here.

Why be blue in a swamp? The evolution of color patterns and color vision in killifish

Animal communication happens when one organism emits a signal, which then travels through the environment and is detected by the sensory system of another. The environment in which signaling occurs can dramatically alter signal transmission and result in selection where different signals are favored in different environments. The bluefin killifish provide a compelling example. Some populations are found in crystal clear springs (where UV and blue light are highly abundant) and others are found in tannin-stained swamps (where UV/blue light is depauperate). Paradoxically, males with blue color patterns are abundant in swamps and are rare in springs. The resolution to this paradox requires a consideration of how genetics and the environment influence trait expression, as well as the direction of natural and sexual selection in different habitat types, and the manner in which animals with different visual systems perceive the same color pattern.

Data Nugget Workshop: Why so blue? The determinants of color pattern in killifish

Data Nuggets are hands-on activities designed to improve the scientific and quantitative skills of students by having them graph and interpret scientific data gathered by practicing scientists. This workshop will provide an overview of Data Nuggets and present a Data Nugget featuring data on the genetic and environmental basis of color pattern expression in killifish. This Data Nugget will allow students to determine whether color pattern expression is due to ‘nature’ (e.g., genetics), ‘nurture’ (e.g. environment), or the interaction of the two.

beaconThe materials from the Data Nugget workshop are as follows:

Workshop organized and presented by: Becky Fuller, Elizabeth Schultheis, Melissa Kjelvik, Alexa Warwick, and Louise Mead

BEACON CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF EVOLUTION IN ACTION, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY & UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

Lobsters out of water: Scientists at film camp in Maine

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This post is by MSU graduate student Carina Baskett. See the original article on the BEACON webpage (reproduced below):

Carina and her fellow science communicator Klara Scharnagl making a stop at Niagara Falls on the way back from a film workshop in Maine.

Carina and her fellow science communicator Klara Scharnagl making a stop at Niagara Falls on the way back from a film workshop in Maine.

My colleague Klara Scharnagl had a great idea. “Let’s shoot it from the perspective of a vegetable!” As a scientist, I don’t usually go to work expecting to hear a sentence like that! But yes, we did end up shooting a short video at a farmer’s market from the perspective of a love-struck melon, all in the name of science education.

Klara and I were at a weeklong film workshop in Maine the first week of September to improve our filmmaking skills. We are working on a BEACON-funded project with Melissa Kjelvik, Liz Schultheis, Travis Hagey, and Anna Groves to make videos for classrooms about scientists. The videos will accompany Data Nuggets (DNs), which are exercises for K-12 and undergraduate students to practice working with data from real, current research. DNs were co-developed by MSU graduate students and K-12 teachers.

The goals of the videos are two-fold. First, we aim to redefine how students see science and scientists by featuring researchers from diverse backgrounds, giving students more face time with the scientists than they can get from a photo in a DN. Second, we aim to enhance evolution education by showing how data is collected and presenting information in an alternative media to the standard written descriptions.

A Maine lobster dinner was the cherry on top of the film workshop sundae!

A Maine lobster dinner was the cherry on top of the film workshop sundae!

On top of those goals, there is the overriding need for the videos to be engaging, and the first, somewhat invisible step toward that goal is to be technically proficient. Klara and I each have experience with science outreach and a smattering of the requisite technical skills for filmmaking, but we needed more training and experience with videos. So we found a workshop, “Documentary Camera” at a school called Maine Media.

Klara and I were the only scientists out of the 11 students in the class. In fact, some of the students said that we were the only scientists they had ever met. Being in a classroom where I was clueless and surrounded by people more expert than me was a lot like being a first-year graduate student again! But it was fun to learn so much.

To practice the techniques that we would be using for the DN videos, Klara and I made a “pilot.” We decided that it had to be about plants or lichens (the organisms that we study), not humans or animals, because a major challenge of the DN videos will be to tell engaging stories about organisms and questions that aren’t inherently exciting to most of the population. Personally, I find plants and lichens to be a lot more exciting than, say, sports, but I realize I’m in the minority with that view.

The closest we could come to interviewing a plant expert was to go to an “herbal apothecary,” a pharmacy where all the medicines and remedies come from plants. The message of the video was to get viewers excited about the chemicals that plants make, by pointing out that traditional and many modern medicines come from plants, and then slip in some biology by asking why plants make these chemicals (generally to defend themselves from pests and disease).

We visited the apothecary on short notice, and were able to snag a quick interview with a gardener. When asked, “Plants don’t make these chemicals for human use. Why do they?” she said, “How do we know they don’t make them for humans? Hmm, I’ll have to think about that.” This was an informative moment for us in a couple ways.

First, it was a good reminder that a lot of the scientific knowledge we take for granted, and even the questions that scientists think to ask, are not common sense. Even someone whose job it is to work with plants and the chemicals they manufacture was not considering the evolutionary explanation for why plants have these adaptations that we are co-opting. Yet it would be helpful for someone working with plant medicine to have an understanding that related plants might manufacture similar compounds and that the environmental context (such as an outbreak of caterpillars on a plant) might affect the drugs that they are harvesting. That’s why evolution education and outreach are so important!

Second, the interview was good practice for the DN videos because we aren’t always going to get a nice, video-ready sound bite from everyone we talk to. Some of the scientists we interview might use too much jargon and be unable to make their research approachable. But that’s why we will include narration and drawings to guide the narrative. We ended up using the gardener’s quote about why she thinks plants are amazing and exciting, and we provided the explanation of why plants make chemicals that we use for medicine.

So was our science communication effective? On the last day of the workshop, participants from several classes ate an amazing dinner of Maine lobster, and then watched each other’s projects. It was funny to see our educational video mixed in with a beautifully shot piece showing a nearby harbor as the catch was being brought in; with a portrait of a pair of local artists whose house is covered in drawings; and with some dramatic fictional pieces from another class. When I asked everyone afterward, “So why do plants make chemicals that we use for medicine?” almost all of them answered correctly. If we can reach a group of filmmakers who didn’t even know there would be a quiz, hopefully we can have an impact on students, by helping to make Data Nuggets just a little more delicious.

You can watch our 5-minute video below! And if you have an extra few minutes and wouldn’t mind giving us some feedback, please click here.

Collaborations with K-12 teachers first inspired Data Nuggets, and continue to today

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This post is by MSU postdocs Liz Schultheis and Melissa Kjelvik. See the original article on the BEACON webpage (reproduced below):

Liz modeling the process of science within a Data Nugget.

Liz modeling the process of science within a Data Nugget.

Back when we were biology graduate students, the GK-12 program at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) exposed us to science education for the first time. When we signed up to work with K-12 teachers and go into schools as the “classroom scientist” we knew there would be benefits, such as time to hone our science communication skills, a venue to share our research with broad audiences, and of course saving us the hour and a half drive to MSU’s main campus to TA. However, we had no idea what we had really gotten ourselves into.

We were each assigned a partner teacher whose classroom we would visit a few times a week, and who would mentor us as we attempted to share our research with students for the first time. The experience of standing up in front of 30 sixth graders was intimidating at first. Yet, it was necessary to realize how hard it was to simplify and explain a topic, while also making it engaging for an audience who may never have thought about these ideas before. The teachers’ infectious enthusiasm boosted the passion we had for our research. They pushed us to describe why the things we were doing day-to-day mattered for the big picture. They were willing to stand in the back of the classroom and wave their arms when students checked out because we’d used too much jargon or started to nerd-out. These teachers had such a clear passion for improving student learning; they constantly stepped out of their comfort zone to try new ways to improve their teaching and integrate the latest effective science teaching strategies into their classrooms. Working with these teachers and their students quickly became our favorite time of the week.

These same teachers originally inspired Data Nuggets; they shared that their students were struggling to make sense of data in most applications, but especially data from classroom inquiry projects that turned out messy or did not follow predictions. Students should not feel they have failed when their data has variation around the mean or does not support their hypothesis. Typically, students are only exposed to research and data published in textbooks, leading to the misconception that all science is a completed product with well established ideas and clear results. To get students to think like scientists, they need to be exposed to the process of science itself and how scientists work to develop, test, and refine their ideas. As early-career scientists, we knew that along the way, experiments often fail or yield unexpected results.

Melissa running a professional development workshop for high school math and science teachers.

Melissa running a professional development workshop for high school math and science teachers.

For continued support, we turned to BEACON, whose education objectives align with the Data Nuggets vision. Using these seed funds, we were able to work with Louise Mead and other BEACON scientists to develop Data Nuggets that connect students to real data and the motivation and passion of the scientists behind the research. Today we have 46 Data Nuggets (and counting) up on our website, freely available to teachers and students, many written by women and early career scientists.

As we wrapped up as graduate students, we realized there was so much more we wanted to do to improve and expand Data Nuggets. The support from BEACON allowed us time to fully develop our ideas and submit an NSF DRK-12 grant with Louise. As BEACON postdocs we are excited to have time to integrate all these great ideas into Data Nuggets. The main objective of the collaborative NSF DRK-12 grant, between MSU and Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), is to assess whether Data Nuggets increase students’ quantitative reasoning abilities, along with their understanding of, and engagement with, science. In preparation for this efficacy study, we are currently revising each Data Nugget and integrating new ideas and feedback from our collaboration.

High school math and science teachers working to complete a Data Nugget during a professional development workshop.

High school math and science teachers working to complete a Data Nugget during a professional development workshop.

This summer we worked with 4 teachers – Marcia Angle, Cheryl Hach, Ellie Hodges, and Kristy Campbell. Marcia and Cheryl have been with us since the beginning, and were among those who first helped us develop Data Nuggets. They were thrilled to see that we continued to develop Data Nuggets and were happy with how far they’d come since the original inception. This summer we had many insightful conversations about students’ struggles with certain scientific practices, including data interpretation and constructing explanations. The teachers shared their different teaching strategies, and researched new ones, in order to write guides to help other teachers cover these difficult topics. As a group we read through student responses to Data Nuggets piloted in the spring. This was a powerful way to think deeply about the areas students could improve, and ways for us to provide more context in our teacher guides to encourage rich classroom discussions. Along with BEACON postdoc Alexa Warwick, the teachers developed a grading rubric to help teachers score Data Nuggets and identify areas where their students need more practice. While reading student responses, the teachers collectively noticed that students had a difficult time using evidence to support their claims, so they worked on a new tool to ease students into this process. They presented this tool, along with other strategies, at professional development workshops for the KBS K-12 partnership teachers and all Kalamazoo Public Schools high school science teachers.

This year we are finalizing preparations for our Data Nugget efficacy study, taking place in 2017. Preliminary observations in classrooms, and feedback from teachers, indicate Data Nuggets effectively increase students’ quantitative and scientific literacy while engaging them with the story behind the research and building a connection to scientists. However, as scientists, we are of course not satisfied with anecdotal evidence and want data to support our claims! We are excited for the upcoming study to determine the ways in which Data Nuggets might contribute to a strong science education curriculum!

Professional Development Workshop @ KBS Summer Institute 8/18/16

Advice on how to use the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning framework in your classroom intentionally. Session presented with two Michigan science teachers, Marcia Angle and Cheryl Hach.

Session Description: In our session we will talk about the transition of science education away from memorization of facts and more towards the application of applying critical thinking and quantitative reasoning. We will discuss the importance of scaffolding student learning centered on the scientific principles of investigation, student discourse, and will unveil our new graphic CER organizer that we designed to support student writing when it comes to Claim, Evidence and the oh so difficult Reasoning portions of science writing. We use Data Nuggets throughout the session to model how you can integrate our CER tool into the classroom and increase the amount of data analysis and interpretation done in your classroom. This session is for upper elementary, middle and high school teachers whose students struggle with quantitative skills and CER writing. Our little nuggets can do great things!

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Professional Development Workshop with NY Master Teachers 8/8/16

Workshop Description: In this workshop we demonstrated how to use our current Data Nugget resources in the classroom. We took an in depth look at the big themes present in these activities, including distinguishing hypotheses from predictions, using claim-evidence-reasoning structure to help students construct explanations, and modeling the process of science followed in real research. Finally, we shared our exciting plans for testing the efficacy of Data Nuggets at increasing student quantitative literacy, understanding of science, and motivation to pursue careers in science.

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Participants: Judy Selig, Matthew Schuchman, Paula Fernes, AnneMarie Giles, Lisa Brosnick, Trevor Tripp, Eun Mi Heo, Annie Chien, Linda Rose, Karin Marcotullio, Darlene Nichols, Michelle Van Steele, and Amanda Huszar.

Data Nuggets at the National Academies Special Topics Summer Institute on Quantitative Biology

Data Nuggets will be presented at the National Academies Special Topics Summer Institute on Quantitative Biology on June 20th.

To see the event on Facebook, click here.

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The Data Nugget “9 piece” team – developing new activities to bring real data into undergraduate classrooms! From left to right: Melissa Kjelvik, Jodi Forrester, Elizabeth Schultheis, Vedham Karpakakunjaram, Michelle Fisher, and Aditi Pai (not pictured: Kristine Grayson, Jim Smith, Bob Mayes)IMG_6280All the participants at the QUBES/BioQuest working group!
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