December 4, 2021

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Interpreting Data to Understand Community Opinions on Climate Change

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This last step, where students presented what they found in their surveys, completed the arc of our project. It was essential because it was where students stepped up and took charge of making change. Also, in the spirit of the article that inspired this project, we wanted students to practice synthesizing and communicating their findings to a broader audience.

Some of our classes focused primarily on creating a visual representation of their data and the findings from their work. Here are a few examples:

Student Example 1

Student Example 2

Student Example 3

Others turned their research into letters to share with an audience of their choosing, such as their parents, siblings, friends, or the school community at large.

The beautiful part about this step is how much it can vary based on your school and your students. Additional ideas for getting students to share their work might include hosting a climate change night where students present their findings to members of the community; creating infographics for other students about the realities of climate change and what they can do about it; submitting an editorial related to their topic to The Learning Network’s annual editorial contest; creating social media posts to be posted by the school; or whatever creative ideas you and your students can come up with!

This project was a first for all of us. All three of us attempted to design a unit where students could engage with data in the context of climate change and understand how it affects them and their communities directly. At the end of the unit, we are confident that students learned how to analyze and interpret complex data sets and communicate new learning through data visualization or writing. In math, students also learned how to apply the concepts of mean, median and mode to their own data collection practices. In science, students learned how to navigate Google Sheets to build infographics from large amounts of survey data.

For us teachers, this was a fun and exciting project to plan. Instead of trying to get students to just understand the why and how of climate change, this unit focused on a skill (data interpretation) in the context of climate change. This brought a different feel to the classroom because it was engaging.

In evaluating the final survey we gave, students mentioned that they appreciated a focus on skills and getting to learn more about a relevant topic. Specifically, being able to look at organic data from the community was an experience that was unique for most students.

Creating a space for data-driven conversations about climate change proved to be invaluable. Our students mentioned that most of their news comes from social media or that they had heard of climate change but didn’t really understand much about it, so using The New York Times as a grounding resource was extremely helpful. The Times and The Learning Network do a great job of making very complicated data accessible to a wide range of people through data visualizations and well-reported stories.

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