Data Collection Through the Eyes of Fifth Graders

"As they began the year, students began to understand the idea of collecting data not simply to answer questions, but to provoke more questions, to invite curiosity. Together, students unpacked the “why” behind collecting data and generated a list of potential data collection ideas for the year."

In the book
Dear Data, authors Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec explain:

We believe data collected from life can be a snapshot of the world in the same way that a picture catches small moments in time. Data can describe the hidden patterns found in every aspect of our lives, from our digital existence to the natural world around us. Every plant, every person, every interaction we take part in can be mapped, counted, and measured. . . Instead of using data just to become more efficient, we argue that we can use data to become more humane and to connect with ourselves and others at a deeper level [italics added].

Fifth grade Integrated Science and Math (ISM) teachers Amy Darsey and Leah Hartman immediately saw the connection to their curriculum which, for the first few months of school, centers around the question, “What is identity?”

As they began the year, students began to understand the idea of collecting data not simply to answer questions, but to provoke more questions, to invite curiosity. Together, students unpacked the “why” behind collecting data and generated a list of potential data collection ideas for the year.

Like the book’s authors, they tracked data in their own lives and learned that, as Lupi and Posavec say, “By noticing our behaviour, we were influencing our behavior.” With data in hand, fifth graders were charged with telling the story of their data through a compelling visual. Consistent with the understanding that identities can be represented in multiple ways, students were given few limitations on how to create a visual for organizing and delivering the data they collected, as long as they communicated in a way that others could understand. The challenge of communicating data visually offers possibility, creativity, and individuality. In reflection, students spoke into their inspiration, the reason for using particular materials, and their feelings about the process.

In the included photo gallery, you can see how students represented the number of times they said thank you in a day or rode in a car each day. Ms. Darsey and Ms. Hartman look forward to developing additional collections this year, in which students will further develop the aesthetic aspects of the project and deepen their understanding of the many reasons for data collection and the many ways that data reveals our shared humanity.
 
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