Data Saves the Whales! was developed as part of the

In 2012, the National Science Foundation funded the

AMP-IT-UP Logo. All curriculum materials are available at

The design of all modules was informed by research in the area of project-based inquiry learning (PBIL) (

All modules also strive to promote, to the extent possible, the integration of the STEM content, incorporating science and engineering contexts and data collection investigations into activities that also require that students analyze data using both grade-level appropriate and foundational mathematics skills. In their report “

For five years AMP-IT-UP curriculum developers, researchers, and educators designed the curriculum materials, piloted them in four middle schools, made iterative changes based on formative data, and conducted extensive empirical research regarding their impact on students and teachers. The mathematics and science modules were designed to provide teachers with highly scaffolded instructional materials that would be educative and promote changes in teacher practice in the classroom. The modules demonstrate how project-based learning and the implementation of integrative practices related to data practices can effectively enable students to master core math and science disciplinary concepts and practices while promoting high levels of student engagement.

The

The instructional materials, which are all available for free download at

Students engage in a simulated investigation during this module, meant to mimic the experimental procedures used by marine scientists when collecting samples. Each group of three to four students is given six canisters labeled with the depths where the samples were collected. Each canister contains a two-inch by two-inch resealable bag filled with a pre-determined mass of dried “plankton” (here modeled with split peas) and a paper thermometer indicating the temperature at the depth where the sample was collected. Since each group of students receives only six canisters from different depths, they must share their data with the whole class to reveal the complete data profile. The specific mass of split peas to be placed in each canister and instructions about how to label each canister are explained in the material preparation instruction guide. Each student group should have access to a digital scale. Teachers need to prepare the containers ahead of time, but they should be able to be used by multiple sequential classrooms (Figure

The materials students use for their simulated investigation including canisters, digital scales, student texts and accompanying student pages. Courtesy of Steven Taylor.

The Engage phase of this module is designed to capture student interest and connect them with a real-world problem. It introduces students to the Antarctic marine environment, Dr. Ingall’s research and graduate students, and the overarching challenge that awaits students. Student interest is captured as they are introduced to the icebreaker research ship

There are three videos in this section that introduce students to the Antarctic and situate them with the challenge. In the first video, “

At this point students learn their challenge for this module. Whales that swim near the ocean surface are sometimes struck by passing ships, which can injure the whale and harm the boat. Dr. Ingall predicts that if they can determine the depth at which whales feed on plankton, that can help ensure that ships like the

In the Explore phase of this module, students actively investigate the problem of how to determine 1) the depth where whales are most likely to feed and 2) the water temperature where plankton live. Since students won’t be taking a field trip aboard the

Student group weighing the dried plankton from a canister (modeled by split peas) during the Explore phase. Courtesy of Steven Taylor.

The Explain phase of this module is where students connect their experiences with the mathematics and technical concepts they are learning. This is the phase where learners connect what they have done so far with the required mathematical standards, including: independent and dependent variables, ordered pairs, Cartesian coordinate graphing, and linear and non-linear relationships. The student text includes content explaining why this is a module focused on the practice of data representation; students had previously created pictographs to show different ways of visualizing and representing data and now they learn how mathematicians similarly use Cartesian coordinate graphs to also represent data. The text explains what Cartesian coordinate graphs are and how they are created and includes key vocabulary: independent and dependent variables, coordinates of a point, and ordered pair.

Previously students collected and recorded the temperature and plankton weight for the depths 80 to 230 feet beneath the surface. Now they use these data as the basis to learn how to create ordered pairs of numbers representing depth vs. temperature and depth vs. plankton weight. Working independently, students use the data already recorded on their

In the Elaborate phase students extend their understanding of the mathematical content they have been learning thus far (data representation, ordered pairs, and independent and dependent relationships) to a new experience. Specifically, students use the ordered pairs that they created of depth vs. plankton weight and depth vs. water temperature and plot those on their own Cartesian coordinate graph.

The ordered pairs that students recorded on the

Whale Challenge Coordinate Graph student page where students plot the ordered pairs for their investigation (temperature vs. depth and plankton weight vs. depth), to aid with visualizing trends in data.

Once all of the ordered pairs are plotted, students are instructed to connect those points revealing trends in the data. This connects with what students learn about linear and non-linear relationships.

This module offers multiple opportunities to evaluate student learning through both formative and summative assessments. The student pages are essentially practice, guiding students in this experience as they transition through the phases of collecting and analyzing data from their simulation and creating ordered pairs and graphing that data in order to explore relationships. For teachers looking for final grades from this module, there are two student pages in particular that are recommended for summative assessments:

Before writing their letters, they are given one additional piece of information about the

This STEM-integrated module, which can be used to address several Common Core Mathematics standards, connects students with real-world scenarios, uses authentic data, and is contextualized within a marine ecosystem that relates to content from earth and life science. Although it was written for sixth grade math classes, the content and student pages can be adapted for students of varying abilities or additional grades. In this module, students use manipulatives to explore the relationship between the concentration of plankton, the temperature of the ocean, and the depth below the ocean surface and use this information to predict the behavior of feeding whales. The module went through several iterative cycles of curriculum development, professional development, classroom implementation and revision before being made available for wider dissemination.

Teachers played an important role in this process as they shared significant feedback about their implementation of modules through surveys, observations, and interviews with the AMP-IT-UP team. Two of the teacher materials created for each module, the annotated teacher guide and the teacher preparatory guide, contain many of the suggestions that teachers have shared for successful implementation as well as pitfalls to avoid, such as, “preview the module and have materials ready in a manner to distribute easily,” and “tell the students to only have one container open at a time so they don’t get any data mixed up.”

Teachers also found great value in having students use digital versions of student pages, especially for recording data. In

“I used a Google sheet to post the class-wide data for the graphs, which made the process much easier. This was a great way to let students share their results in an organized, efficient manner. Additionally, it led to great discussion when someone had data that was an outlier. (Most were able to identify their own mistakes in calculations).”

Another teacher highlighted great discussion about data with their students. When calculating the weight of plankton, many of their students made the error of not subtracting the weight of the bag. The student-reported data, “was perfect dialogue for reinforcing skewed data points. I was able to simply facilitate and [students] discussed the results as we completed the class graph together. They pointed out the errors to each other without me having to intervene.”

During the interviews, teachers also mentioned that the modules successfully supported the teaching of data practices because of the relatability of the content to the real world and to the lived experiences of students and because the content is integrated across classes and content areas. Teachers reported that students transferred knowledge to new contexts, “even including social studies and language arts. They talk about, ‘okay, let’s come up with a procedure,’” and they even attributed gains on state mathematics assessments to the AMP-IT-UP curriculum.

The AMP-IT-UP curriculum materials would be beneficial to any science, math, or STEM educator that is looking for novel ways of teaching data practices contextualized through STEM integrated content.

Link to the AMP-IT-UP website for all curriculum offerings:

Link to the

NSF project # 1238089.

We would like to thank the following people for contributions during the development and assessment of the

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. 1238089. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or Georgia Institute of Technology.

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

Jayma Koval led the manuscript writing, with contributions from other authors. She also designed the teacher educative materials for