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BSCS Launches Invitations to Inquiry to Help Students Work with Citizen Science Data

April 21, 2020

What is the best time of year to host a lilac blossom festival? Does a plastic bag tax work to reduce litter in the environment? Students now have the opportunity to explore large data sets to answer questions like these and ultimately increase their confidence in analyzing data.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 21, 2020 – BSCS Science Learning has launched a set of instructional activities designed to introduce middle and high school science students to data analysis. Called Invitations to Inquiry with FieldScope, these activities are short learning experiences that engage students with community and citizen science data from projects hosted on BSCS’s FieldScope platform.

“FieldScope is an interactive platform for collecting, visualizing, and analyzing data—and many teachers and students are currently using it to participate in local and global citizen science projects,” said Dr. Audrey Mohan, BSCS research scientist & project director. “With our new Invitations to Inquiry, students can explore FieldScope’s advanced mapping and graphing tools to dig deeper into data in the context of meaningful science classroom lessons.”

The 11 Inquiries are designed for 1-3 days of learning and support the Science and Engineering Practices from the Next Generation Science Standards. They include teacher guides, slides, handouts, and other instructional resources and supports.

“These Inquiries align really well with the NGSS data analysis learning goals,” said Rachel Buckley, a seventh grade teacher in Massachusetts who used the Inquiries with her students as part of a field test.” In the past, I didn’t have a good way to be able to go through data. FieldScope is ideal because it provides large data that students can access. My students aren’t using large sets of data in their math class, so this aligned to the hardest NGSS practice to hit.”

Each lesson engages students in interpreting graphs and maps to learn about where the data are collected and what they mean. Students explore questions such as “What is the best time of year to host a lilac blossom festival?” using plant life-cycle data and “Does a plastic bag tax work to reduce litter in the environment?” using data collected during volunteer river cleanups in the Washington, DC, area. In another local project, students use data from the Chesapeake Bay estuary to determine suitable sites for oyster reef restoration. And in the Globe at Night Inquiry, students investigate what contributes to light pollution using data collected internationally.

“It is crucial for students to be able to analyze and interpret data in today’s world,” said Dr. Daniel Edelson, BSCS executive director. “In this project, we are focused on skills that students will use throughout their lives. We want to prepare students to not just interpret the graphs and maps they see in the media but to be able to create their own.”

Although the Invitations to Inquiry are designed for classroom learning with computer access, each activity presents an opportunity for teachers and students to get outside and collect data for the citizen science projects.

“Citizen science has become evermore popular and commonplace over the last decade thanks to increasing access to technologies like FieldScope,” said Sean O’Connor, BSCS citizen science program manager. “It’s great when classrooms can participate in the collection of data from the environment around them, but also when our students can use data sets generated by citizen science projects to learn with data and use data to better understand our interconnected world.”