Using Authentic Earth Data in the K-12 Classroom

Using Authentic Earth Data in the K-12 Classroom

Meghan E. Marrero (Mercy College, USA), Amanda M. Gunning (Mercy College, USA) and Karen Woodruff (U.S. Satellite Laboratory, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9616-7.ch013


Our planet is under intense observation—by satellites, seismometers, buoys, radar, and more. These instruments generate authentic data sets that are freely accessible online, and thus available for K-12 students and teachers to use in STEM classrooms. This chapter examines how teachers engaged in the NASA Endeavor program, a STEM teacher professional development initiative, use authentic online data in their classrooms and the effects of these activities on teaching and learning. Endeavor teachers use data in many ways, including through curriculum programs developed to scaffold earth data sets for use by students. Through qualitative analysis of teacher interviews, teacher course work, student work, and other relevant data, the researchers discovered that employing authentic online data in Endeavor teachers' classrooms helped students to construct explanations based on evidence and make real world connections to science content.
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The Science and Engineering Practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) underscore the importance of helping students to think scientifically, such as through the practice Analyzing and Interpreting Data (NGSS Lead States, 2013). When students use practices such as data analysis, they often demonstrate deeper understanding of concepts, more motivation and engagement, and higher grades in science (Minner, Levy, & Century, 2010) Technological tools that include opportunity for visualizing data can help students to make connections between their local communities and global issues (Marrero & Schuster, 2010).

In this chapter, we describe three K-12 programs in which students successfully analyze and interpret earth data as they learn standards-based science content, and examine the perspectives of teachers and students using the programs. These programs are now all courses within the NASA Endeavor program, in which teachers from across the United States and from around the world complete a course sequence in STEM education ( We then describe a case study in which we examined examples of the ways in which these data are affecting teaching and learning. Finally, we share some examples of ways in which teachers can use freely available sources of earth data with their own students.

While our discussion focuses primarily on Earth System Science, we hope that the ideas will challenge and encourage pre- and in-service teachers to use the myriad sources of authentic data that can be easily accessed online, and incorporate these data as an effective tool for science instruction.

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