Middle school students often enjoy getting out of the classroom to work on academic assignments. As a teacher, you probably enjoy getting out of the classroom too. You might orchestrate science or research projects that require your students to collect reliable data. These projects might involve educational field trips, visits to your local library, laboratory experiments or outdoor data-gathering tasks. Data-collection activities are an ideal way to help your students prepare for upcoming high school science projects and research reports.
Help your students learn how to collect and graph data by conducting math-related experiments. Divide your class by pairs. Ask each pair to attach a paper cup to a slinky and dangle the slinky from a yardstick, supported by two school desks. Students must measure the distance between the cup and the floor as they add Skittles or M&Ms to the cup, one at a time. Have your students chart and graph their data on graph paper.
Lots of Leaves
Conduct an outdoor data-gathering assignment during the fall, such as collecting leaves, and ask your class to report data about them. For example, you might give each student three minutes to collect as many fallen leaves as possible. Students must classify each leaf by color and create a pie chart or a bar graph to show how many leaves they collected in each color category. Or, you might a visit a local arboretum, and ask each student to collect three dozen fallen leaves from a variety of trees. They must classify each leaf by tree type and create a graph or chart to display their results.
Favorite Animal Reports
Take your class to the local library and ask each student to collect data on her favorite animal. Provide a rubric explaining the type of information you want them to collect, such as animal size at birth and in adulthood, natural habitats, food sources, life spans and physical attributes. When you return to school, ask your students to create posters about their favorite animals and prepare three-minute oral presentations. Or, ask them to write research papers on their findings and display the finished reports on one of your classroom walls.
Pop Culture Polls
Have your class conduct a school-wide poll on a pop culture topic, such as favorite movies, TV characters or cartoons. Ask each student to poll 25 random students at the school. Even though there might be some crossover with students being polled more than once by students, your class will still get some interesting data to analyze, sort and report. Introduce your class to graph-making computer software that allows them to report their data in different formats. Once each student has created his report, group class data into one final report. For fun, you might show the winning movie, TV show or cartoon as a special ending to your academic unit on data collecting.
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