Lesson 6: Exploring the Data

What influences biological hotspots at the Palmer Deep Canyon in Antarctica? What data do scientists collect to answer this question?


Students will break into groups and familiarize themselves with polar data collected by the scientists.  Students will then use the data to answer simple questions.


  • Computer with internet connection (1 per group for a total of 6)
  • 6 Large sheets of paper
  • Markers

Take Home Message

  • Students will recognize that scientists use a variety of data to answer scientific questions.
  • Students will familiarize themselves with the scientific data available to them from the project.
Engage: Review testable questions and introduce data

  • Students will review how they generated testable questions
  • Students will look at the sample question and determine what data is needed to answer the question
5  minutes
Explore: Explore data sets

  • Students will break into 6 groups.  Each group will explore a data set and report back to the group about what is in each data set.
20 minutes
Make Sense: Use data to answer simple questions

  • Student will be given 3 simple questions that they need to use the data to answer
  • At the end of class they will answer the question “Do we have the data to answer our Sample question”
20 minutes
Total: 45 minutes


  • Middle and high school


  • Teachers should familiarize themselves with the data sets. A slideshow has also been created for the teacher and should be reviewed. 
  • Data sets can be downloaded by clicking here. Based on student computers, prepare a method for sharing the data with the students.

Engage (5 minutes)

  • See the “L6 Exploring the Data” PowerPoint. All points below can be found in the slides
  • Review with the students how we arrive at a testable question
    • Show the beginning sample question “How does water temperature change over time?”
    • Review SMART means
    • Show the revised sample question “How does the average daily water temperature in Palmer Deep change over a year?”
    • Be engaging!
  • Ask students what data do we need to answer this question?
    • Tell students we need to review the available data to see if we have the data required to answer this question

Explore (20 minutes)

  • Break students into 6 groups. Each group will get a set of data to look at. There will also be an accompanying video that goes over the data set.
    • Penguin Data
    • HF Radar Data
    • Glider Data
      • 00-10 meters (columns B through F) (File: 2015_Palmer_Glider_0-10m_Draft)
      • 00-10 meters (columns G through K) (File: 2015_Palmer_Glider_0-10m_Draft)
      • 80-90 meters (columns B through F) (File: 2015_Palmer_Glider_80-90m_Draft)
      • 80-90 meters (columns G through K) (File: 2015_Palmer_Glider_80-90m_Draft)
      • Glider Data Video
  • Each group should look through the data and answer these questions on a large sheet of paper.
    • How was this data collected?
    • What data was collected? (Make sure to include what the data is as well as the units if there are any)
    • What is the date range for the data collected?
    • About how many data points were collected each day?
    • Any other interesting information about the data they would like to share.
    • Bonus for high school: How could you graph this information?
  • Large sheets of paper can be placed around the room so that each group can present their data set.

Make Sense (20 minutes)

  • The groups will use the data to answer 3 simple questions. For each question the groups should think about what data set or sets are needed to answer each question.
    • What was the average water temperature on January 1, 2015 in Palmer Deep at 0-10 meter depth?
    • What was the difference between the salinity at 0-10 meters and 80-90 meters in the Palmer Deep on February 1, 2015?
    • How many male penguins were tracked on January 11, 2015?
  • Closing: The teacher should put up the sample revised question ““How does the average daily water temperature in Palmer Deep change over a year?” and ask the class, “Do we have the data needed to answer the question?” Answer: No, we do not. This serves as an introduction to revising testable questions.

NGSS Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ETS1-1 Engineering Design

  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

HS-LS2-2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

HS-LS2-6 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.

HS-ETS1-1 Engineering Design

  • Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

Polar Literacy Principles Addressed

Ocean Literacy Principles Addressed

Climate Literacy Principles Addressed