Data Clubs: Engaging Middle School Youth in Data Science (2020)


Description

Data are the currency of the current era, yet most youth have not had the opportunity to develop the skills that allow them to deal productively and powerfully with data. Being “data fluent” is critical for both work and life, but data science is largely not taught at school, so informal settings are essential for filling this gap. Our project explores how we can make data science accessible to middle school youth through developing data clubs modules that are delivered in after-school programs and summer camps.  Through choosing topics of interest to youth and using a highly accessible and free data analysis program, we have been able to successfully involve participants in meaty data analysis practices.  

Other team members: Ada Ren-Mitchell, MIT Media Lab; Jan Mokros, Tumblehome Learning; Jacob Sagrans, Tumblehome Learning; Meggie Harvey, Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

NSF Awards: 1742255

Discussion

This discussion took place during the TERC Video Showcase Event Nov. 14-21, 2023. Discussion is now closed.
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Traci Higgins
Traci Higgins
November 13, 2023 4:57 pm
Thank you for visiting our video and for your interest in engaging middle school youth in the exploration of authentic, meaningful, multivariate data. At the heart of our work is empowering youth to engage in data investigations driven by their own questions. We spent a lot of time finding and then curating real-world data sets to fit with topics that youth had identified as interesting. We then developed a set of three modules designed for use in after school and summer camp settings. To learn more and download any of our modules visit our website: https://www.terc.edu/dataclubs/

We would love to learn more about how your work and ours might intersect. Where are youth in your own classes/programs/projects engaging with real-world data? What supports would you like to see for developing data literacy and empowering youth as they engage with real-world data?

Last edited 4 months ago by Traci Higgins
Kathryn Hobbs
Kathryn Hobbs
November 16, 2023 5:50 pm
This is such important work! If there was ever a time that students need to be able to work with and understand data, it is now! As I visited colleges with my two sons, it was also very clear that data science is a program that is being expanded and promoted at many universities to meet the need and demand in the workforce. Providing opportunities for younger students really feels necessary and urgent as well.

I really like how this program makes data accessible to students by finding the topics that are of most interest to them. Presented in this way, I imagine that it creates natural excitement and engagement in ways that I’m sure leaves them wanting to learn more. Thank you for sharing this work!

Joni Falk
Joni Falk
November 17, 2023 10:15 am
Really interesting project. Is it still going on? Has it led to new work? Did you have the opportunity to conduct any longitudinal follow up on the impacts of those that participated? Thanks for sharing this important project!
Traci Higgins
Traci Higgins
November 17, 2023 12:28 pm
Thank you Kathryn and Joni! Data Clubs was such an engaging project to work on. We used youth focus groups early in the project to better understand what potentially data-rich topics youth found meaningful and interesting. We wanted to provide youth with opportunities to interact with large, authentic datasets that could support multiple paths of exploration driven by the questions they asked of and with the data. One theme uncovered in our research was that many youth hadn’t realized that more than one question could be explored with the same dataset and that different visualizations could help them extract different insights or could be used to further probe something they were noticing. The project has ended, but we have applied what we learned working on Data Clubs to other projects, such as the development of the Data Explorers curriculum. NetApp funds this out-of-school and after-school program that introduces middle school youth to data science through the lens of the United Nations Sustainability Goals. In turn, both of these bodies of work inspired the NSF supported project “Exploring Data Science Through the Lens of Civics Education” in which we partner with middle school social studies teachers to develop student-driven investigations of civic data that can be integrated with topics already being studied in their classes. This work is just now being launched (hence no video yet!). Given the ubiquitous nature of data in our current age, it is critical that young adults are empowered to make sense of and interact critically with data. We want them to know how to ask questions of and with data. This needs to be something that happens throughout the core curriculum and not just in Advanced Placement classes. We hope that our work can contribute to meeting this need in a way that invites everyone in, helping all students see how data is meaningful and relevant to their own lives.
Scott Pattison
Scott Pattison
November 17, 2023 5:20 pm
Such a cool project, Traci and team! Similar to Joni’s questions about impact, I was wondering if you heard stories or collected evidence of youth going beyond these experiences and gathering and representing new data to answer other questions based on what they had learned in these clubs. It seems like this could be so empowering for youth using data throughout their lives.
Traci Higgins
Traci Higgins
November 20, 2023 10:38 am
Hi Scott. Great question. We have not been able to follow up with youth we worked with to see how it has influenced the way they continue to interact with data and whether they have sought out additional opportunities to engage with data. We did gather data about the experience of Data Clubs and how it might have influenced participants’ interest in data and we saw evidence that our participants felt empowered and were interested in future opportunities to engage with data.
Gillian Puttick
Gillian Puttick
November 21, 2023 9:44 am
Hi Data Clubs team – It’s inspiring to see that young people can engage with meaty data (love that term!) if the data are of direct concern to them. I’d love to hear more about how you anticipated what kinds of real world phenomena they might be interested in, and then were able to provide datasets that could help them address their questions.
Anushree Bopardikar
Anushree Bopardikar
November 21, 2023 11:05 am
Thank you for sharing this engaging video about how middle school youth interact with and inquire into data sets to make sense of their everyday lives. I like that the modules provide opportunities for students to make meaning of their own data as well as existing authentic data sets from other sources. I think this blended approach is important to motivate and empower students to pursue their own local inquiry and to use their developing skills and tools to think critically about data from broader lines of inquiry. I hope more local settings, such as public libraries and schools, facilitate data club activities as part of their regular offerings. I intend to share links to the Data Clubs modules with folks in my community.