High school biology classrooms often lack the time and resources to do long term studies and data collection that researchers engage in. Luckily for us, many projects make their data available for use by schools. Organizations like HHMI and Data Nuggets have created student resources that focus on analyzing real scientific data.
One of these projects by HHMI is Evolution in Action: Data Analysis. Students can view raw data taken from finches on the island, Daphne Major. The study explores how finch populations change in response to changes in the environment, like a drought.
DataClassroom is an app that uses the data from this finch study and allows students to manipulate graphs with a click of the button. Students can quickly view how changes in finch beak size or weight may correlate to survival. Students can log into data classroom for free and explore different ways to represent real data collected by the Grants.
DataClassroom has also paired with Data Nuggets to explore other data sets, like one that looks at the behavior or mice when approaching scorpions (A Tail of Two Scorpions). Students can use the DataClassroom graphs in conjunction with the Data Nugget handouts to make quick representations and models of raw data. Graphing by hand or even with spreadsheets can be very time consuming.
With AP Biology students, DataClassroom also allows for statistical analysis of the Data, such as T-tests and chi-square. Once my students learn the basics of how these tests are performed, I allow them to use apps or spreadsheet to run the tests to save time.
DataClassroom is free to use for data sets provided, though offers plans for schools and classes to apply their own data and statistical analysis. It can be a very useful tool for introducing students to these topics without spending a great deal of time on entering data into spreadsheets. Plus, it’s just fun to see how you can quickly switch from one variable to another to show relationships.