ERIC Identifier: ED465545
Publication Date: 2001-12-00
Author: Haury, David L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Teaching Science through Inquiry with Archived Data. ERIC
Teaching science through inquiry has long been promoted by science educators
(See Haury, 1993) and is strongly endorsed by the "National Science Education
Standards" (NSES; National Research Council, 1996). According to the
"Standards," "Students at all grade levels and in every domain of science should
have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think
and act in ways associated with inquiry, including asking questions, planning
and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and techniques to gather
data, thinking critically and logically about relationships between evidence and
explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and
communicating scientific arguments" (Chapter 6). For most teachers, however, the
shift in emphasis from traditional instructional approaches to inquiry is a
difficult transition. "The focus is shifted away from merely 'learning about'
science to 'doing it'.--with time set aside for the collection, discussion and
analysis of data" (Falk & Drayton, 2000).
Teaching through inquiry can take many forms, with most descriptions of
inquiry emphasizing investigations. According to the NSES, however, the
essential features of teaching through inquiry (National Research Council, 1996;
Olson & Loucks-Horsely, 2000) are:
Learners are engaged by scientifically oriented questions.
Learners give priority to evidence, which allows them to develop and evaluate
explanations that address scientifically oriented questions.
Learners formulate explanations from evidence to address scientifically oriented
Learners evaluate their explanations in light of alternative explanations,
particularly those reflecting scientific understanding.
Learners communicate and justify their proposed explanations.
Though inquiry-based teaching strategies typically engage students in
investigations, it is not the physical activity that defines inquiry. Teaching
through inquiry is distinguished by its emphasis on a questioning attitude,
gathering data, reasoning from evidence, and communicating explanations that can
be justified by available data.
EXTENDING INQUIRY BEYOND SCHOOLROOMS
inquiry in terms of questioning, analysis of data, gathering evidence, and
formulating explanations rather than particular classroom activities greatly
broadens the potential range of inquiry-oriented lessons. What if students could
pursue answers to questions about phenomena that cannot be studied within the
classroom? What if science students could have access to results, equipment, or
procedures not typically available in schools? What if students in one school
could collaborate with other students or research groups at distant locations in
the world? All of these options are possible through the World Wide Web; the Web
can be used to connect science classrooms with data sets, facilities, and other
students or researchers around the world. This is a relatively new approach to
inquiry-based teaching, but some early experiences have been described (Walters,
1997; Wallace; Kupperman, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2000). It has been noted that
the Web provides access to specialized information and data on diverse topics
that may match student interests or spark questions (Windschitl, 1998).
Though there is no substitute for direct experiences and active
investigation, extending the realm of inquiry through electronic communications
can greatly enrich and extend inquiry approach to science teaching. Presented
below are two strategies for engaging with data via the World Wide Web: (a)
through accessing data sets constructed by science projects or agencies, and (b)
through collaboration with other school groups to produce data sets (network
ACCESSING DATA SETS
The increased use of the World Wide Web
for information dissemination by research groups has led to many research
findings being placed online, including primary sources such as data sets.
Though not originally developed for educational use, diverse data sets allow
students around the world to analyze authentic data in pursuing questions they
may formulate about natural phenomena. There are many more resources than can be
listed here, so what follows is a sampling of the resources available online.
Following the listing of data sources are links to useful tools for managing and
interpreting data, along with suggestions for finding additional resources.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
U.S. EPA offers many resources of value to science teachers in addition to data
sources, from background information to classroom activities. Following are
selected Web pages that serve as good starting points for locating useful data
EPA Envirofacts Data Warehouse
is the best single point for locating USEPA environmental data. This Web site
provides access to databases with information about environmental activities
that affect air, water, and land.
site offers an online environmental map collection, links to other important
collections, and information about environmental quality maps and mapping,
including maps of air quality, maps of landscape and land use features, and maps
of watershed, groundwater, drinking water and water quality.
Surf Your Watershed
search page provides access to data about the condition and vulnerability of
aquatic systems in each of the 2,262 watersheds in the 50 states and Puerto
EPA's Environmental Education Center
Web site provides background information and resources of particular interest to
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Web site provides the general gateway to the vast informational network of NOAA,
including resources relating to weather, climate, air quality, oceans,
fisheries, and remote sensing. The following selected Web pages provide direct
access to various data sources.
is the general gateway to all NOAA data distributed across many Web sites, so
this Web site can be used to:
Search for environmental information on multiple NOAA computers
Retrieve data from NOAA's electronic archives
Download or order data
National Oceanographic Data Center
is one of three NOAA environmental data centers, and it serves as a national
repository and dissemination facility for global ocean data.
National Climatic Data Center
NOAA data center is the world's largest archive of weather data.
National Geophysical Data Center
NOAA data center provides access to data on glaciology, marine geology,
paleoclimatology, solar-terrestrial physics, and solid earth geophysics.
NOAA Education Resources
is the general portal to resources specifically designed for educational use.
Specially for Teachers
resources are designed for the teacher to use in the classroom or as background
or reference material.
web page provides middle school science students and teachers with research and
investigation experiences using online resources. This is a good place for
teachers with little experience in using Web-based resources to begin; the
directions are easy to follow.
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
USGS offers a wide range of data sources related to geography and geophysics,
earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, storms, and related topics. Following are
selected Web pages that provide access to data and educational resources.
Water Resources in the United States
USGS Human Health Database
USGS Learning Web
OTHER DATA SOURCES
National Space Science Data Center
National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) archives and provides access to a
wide variety of astrophysics, space physics, solar physics, lunar and planetary
data from NASA space flight missions. The NSSDC General Public Page
(http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nssdc/gen_public.html) is intended to guide
non-specialists to data and services most likely to be of general interest.
Surfing the Internet for Earthquake Data (Directory)
Real-Time Internet Data for Teaching Science (Directory)
Real-Time Science Data Access Page (Directory)
NETWORK SCIENCE PROJECTS
Teachers who prefer focusing on
databases to which their own students have contributed should consider network
science projects that enable collaborative investigations. The most extensive
collaborative program involving school groups is the Global Learning and
Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program (http://www.globe.gov/).
The following articles describe aspects of the GLOBE program:
Berglund, K. (2000). Exploring science through the GLOBE Program. "ENC Focus:
A Magazine for Classroom Innovators," 7 (3). [ED 443 691]
Means, B. (1998, March). Melding authentic science, technology, and
inquiry-based teaching: Experiences of the GLOBE Program. "Journal of Science
Education and Technology," 7 (1), 97-105.
Mims,F. M. (1999, July). "An international haze-monitoring network for
students. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society," 80 (7), 1421-31.
online science projects include the following:
The Global Water Sampling Project
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Citizen Science
Education Place Project Center: Science Projects
All About Online Projects
TOOLS & TECHNIQUES
Following are online resources that provide tools or techniques for managing
or interpreting data sets.
Spreadsheets in Education
Modeling for Understanding in Science Education
TILT: Teaching Inquiry With the Latest Technology
Falk, J. & Drayton, B. (2000, Fall).
"Cultivating a culture of inquiry." Hands On, 23 (2). (Available online at:
Haury, D. L. (1993). "Teaching science through inquiry" (ERIC Digest
EDO-SE-93-4), Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and
Environmental Education. (Available online at:
Haury, D. L. (2001). "Teaching about the human genome." (ERIC Digest
EDO-SE-01-4). Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and
National Research Council. (1996). "National Science Education Standards."
Washington, DC: National Academy Press. (Available online at:
Olson, S. & Loucks-Horsley, S. (Eds.). (2000). "Inquiry and thee National
Science Education Standards: A guide for teaching and learning." Washington, DC:
National Academy Press. (Available online at:
Wallace,R. M., Kupperman,J., Krajcik,J., & Soloway,E. (2000). Science on
the Web: Students online in a sixth-grade classroom. "Journal of the Learning
Sciences," 9 (1), 75-104.
Walters, J. M. (1997). "Working with data in network science." Paper
presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association
(Chicago, IL, March 24-28). [ED409216]
Windschitl,M. (1998, March). Independent Student Inquiry: Unlocking the
Resources of the World Wide Web. "NASSP Bulletin," 82 (596), 93-98.