Everyone enjoys watching a beautiful sunset or perhaps waking early to see it rise. How can this and other real life experiences be used to help students understand complex scientific concepts, develop analytical skills involved in higher level thinking and learn to draw valid conclusions from what they observe?

Join schools from around the world as they conduct real life experiments in an inquiry-based approach to understanding science and mathematics. In the Global Sun Temperature project, students learn how geographic location affects average daily temperature and hours of sunlight. By measuring the temperature and recording the number of minutes of sunlight per day over a typical week, students can compare and contrast the results with classes who submit similar data from all over the world in order to determine how proximity to the equator affects temperature and sunlight. Students make observations, formulate questions, analyze data to answer questions, test their hypotheses and present their conclusions.

Why Real World Data is Useful in the Classroom

“Unique and compelling” curriculum projects, like this focus on the use of Internet-based “real time” data from commercial and government databases; global telecollaboration on authentic, quantitative science investigations; primary source data, using original documents; and student publishing on the web. Each project is hands-on, Internet-based and correlates with state and national science standards.

Through peer collaboration and the exposure to real world data, students become motivated in the context of a real audience. Students can exchange letters about their school and location, as well as communicate what they have learned from the project about science and each other.

Real-time data projects also give students an opportunity to tap into the unique power of the Internet. Students engage in authentic science investigations in which they perform experiments; collect, record and analyze real data; make predictions, and in effect, become real scientists.

Student engagement in robust inquiry-based science and problem solving activities that incorporate the use of real world data is a powerful "avenue through which students can increase their science and mathematics literacy (Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, 1995-96)."

How You Can Get Involved

This project is one of more than a dozen Internet-based science projects developed and supported by CIESE, the Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education. A number of CIESE’s real time data and telecollaborative projects are included among NSTA’s SciLinks listings. For access to all of CIESE’s free classroom projects, please visit:  http://www.k12science.org/currichome.html.

A 30-hour professional development program developed by CIESE, The Savvy Cyber Teacher®  helps teachers to use and customize such real time data projects in their classroom. To date, more than 7,500 teachers have participated in the Savvy Cyber Teacher® training program through a $9.3 million U.S. Department of Education Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (Alliance+) in Florida, Ohio and Arizona. In addition to 30-hours of face-to-face professional development, this program provides in-class support and follow-up and administrative counsel and liaison. To learn more about this exciting professional development training program, please visit http://www.savvycyberteacher.org.

Meg Turner is the manager of District Outreach Programs, Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), Stevens Institute of Technology.