Purpose: Science isn’t done just in a laboratory. Observing phenomena and collecting data in the real world are key parts of the scientific effort. This activity, designed for at-home learning, encourages students to collect and analyze data in their own homes to develop a research question for future exploration.

Procedural overview: After a virtual introduction to the activity, students will identify a phenomenon that they can observe at home over time and track and record quantitative data about that phenomenon. Then, students will display their data visually, analyze their findings and compare their data with data from other students in the class. Students will use the data they collect to develop a specific research question and hypothesis, and to identify additional data they would need to test that hypothesis.

Approximate class time: 1 class period (for data analysis)

Supplies:

Clock
Pens or pencils
Graph paper
Computer with internet access
Virtual classroom space (for discussions and data sharing)
“The Home as Laboratory” student worksheet

Directions for teachers:

In this activity, students will identify quantitative data they can collect and analyze at home. This activity will remind students that science involves observations in the real world, not just experiments in a science laboratory. Because students will collect data at home, this activity is perfect for virtual learning. Discussions can be completed via Zoom, Skype or other suitable chat programs, while data can be shared via e-mail or through Google Docs, Sheets or Slides.

Teachers can choose a specific phenomenon for the class to explore, outlining what data students should collect, or can encourage students to identify their own phenomenon and data. Make sure the data collected are quantitative, so students can graph and analyze their results.

Two fairly simple investigations most students should be able to complete are tracking electricity usage in the home over time (this guide provides examples for that phenomenon) or tracking changes in the night sky over time. Other possibilities include collecting data on traffic patterns, changes in weather or temperature, the behavior of squirrels or other animals, or a family member’s daily activities. You may want to assign a backup phenomenon for students to explore if their first choice becomes difficult (for example, if students do not have access to their electric meter or if it is a cloudy evening).

Teachers will also want to select a time period for the data to be collected, every hour over a 12-hour period, for example, or at the same time daily over the course of a week. Teachers should decide if and how they want to group students according to the phenomenon selected and what platforms students will use for virtual discussions and data-sharing.

After you present the phenomenon and explain the time period for data collection, students will use the background questions provided on the student worksheet to plan their investigations. Students will decide what quantitative data to collect and create a data table to record that data.

Once students have collected their data, they will analyze the data. They can do this by calculating differences over time periods, looking for trends or identifying outliers. Once the analysis is complete, students should also choose an appropriate means of displaying the data visually. This could include pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs, tables, maps or diagrams, depending on the data collected.

Students can then share their data with the other members of their group in a virtual space and discuss similarities and differences and identify any trends. Based on the group’s data, students can formulate a research question. Once students identify a research question, they should formulate a hypothesis that can be tested through a future experiment.

Note to teacher: The Teacher Answer Key provides sample answers for student questions.

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