When will Spring spring?

Greetings from the end of the National Science Teachers Association Convention 2012 in Indianapolis. From the weather here, it is clear that Spring has Spring in the middle states. I know that I have been decidedly absent from this blog for a few weeks. It seems spring fever and conference presentations will definitely eat away the time.

The fruits of this labor were a number of exercises in data mining and computational science. Since these all highlight ways in which the internet is now used to teach in ways not seen previously, I am going to spend some time highlighting these science lessons here on Disruptivity.

The first lesson is on using Citizen science databases to predict the advent of spring. Nicknamed lovingly by my former students in Heyworth, IL as the “Be Your Own Groundhog” project.

Step 1: Engage students on Groundhog’s Day.
Introduce students to the concept of groundhogs day and its relationship to signs spring with this one day overview of the history and meaning (or lack of meaning) of the day.

Step 2: Explore citizen science databases for signs of Spring.
Students visit Weather Underground and Journey North to learn about what happens to the abiotic and biotic indicators as the Spring season goes on.  Both of these site are places where citizen scientists report and share data freely.

Step 3: Explain with graphs and When-Then statements the patterns.
Students create graphs for 5 years of data on abiotic factors in their area and then compare them with the date on which a specific sign of Spring arrived locally. From this they verbalize the patterns they find in testable When-Then statements.  Ex. When the dew-point reaches 52 degrees earthworms begin to surface within 1 week.

Step 4: Elaborate and refine the When-Then pattern.
Students compare their when-then statements with 5 years of data from both their own location and another location. Statements are refined and revised until a consistently supported hypothesis is available for fair testing.

Step 5: Evaluate the When-Then statements predictive ability.
Students graph this year’s data-to-date and predict the date of arrival of their sign of Spring. Then they watch and wait and evaluate their own hypothesis.

Here are my teacher created handouts for this activity.  Teacher Use rights are Granted-Publication rights reserved.

Student page

Teacher notes page

Groundhog Day Engage Activity

I would love feedback from anyone who has tried this sort of science or this activity.  Please feel free to click the comment bubble.