for the Journey North Teacher
Sense of Data
Dealing with Unusual
often find that data conflicts with conventional scientific wisdom,
breaks dramatically from an expected pattern, or otherwise perplexes
them. In Journey North, unusual sightings are common a Monarch
spotted in England or a hummingbird sighted much too "early" in
the season, for instance. When students notice data that is inconsistent
with what they assume or know to be scientifically reasonable, seize
the opportunity to push their thinking and problem-solving skills.
The following classroom strategies reflect how a scientist might
approach anomolies in data.
Have students try to verify the accuracy of the data by asking questions
about the collector and collection process. (They may want to generate
a list of questions and e-mail them to the observer.)
standards/protocols were used in collecting data?
was the observer and what knowledge or experience does she or
he have? (For instance, Does he know how to identify a whooping
other factors could have affected the findings?
As a class or in small groups, have students use their knowledge,
experience, and imaginations to come up with tentative explanations
for the unusual sighting. Here are some of the questions they might
inspire a fruitful discussion and encourage participation, set
out these guidelines.
your ideas and try to support them.
listen to others' tentative explanations.
your thinking, challenge others' ideas, or defend your own.
the class, What new data or information would help us check and
further refine our explanations? If practical, give students
time to pursue further research or e-mail "experts."