Using Field Investigations to Model Scientific Inquiry
State and national science standards emphasize the importance of inquiry and problem-solving for today’s students. Field investigations offer rich opportunities for students to practice inquiry in engaging and authentic ways. Key steps in field investigations mirror the inquiry process. They are posing research questions, planning and conducting investigations, using evidence to describe findings, communicating research findings to target audiences, and asking new research questions based on findings.
Beyond Data Collection
Just as New Hampshire is gifted with abundant natural resources, so too do we benefit from plentiful scientific field investigations. Several ongoing investigations are offered as models to guide teachers and their students through an authentic scientific inquiry process. Each model contains the following:
- Data collected
- Principal investigators and primary contacts
- Study begin and end dates
- Research question
- How the data answers the question
- Subset of data in a spreadsheet
- Data collection protocol
- Examples of data analysis, including graphs
- Examples of questions for data analysis
- Definitions and additional resources
Maximum and minimum air temperature data collected at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Recommended for high school use.
Precipitation data collected at several rain gages at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Recommended for high school use.
Winter severity index, which provides a subset of data used by the NH Fish and Game Department to assess how the severity of winter may impact deer populations. Recommended for middle school use.
Birds observed at feeders and in backyards through Project Feeder Watch. Recommended for elementary school use. (This model is still in development.)
Field Investigations: Using Outdoor Environments to Foster Student Learning of Scientific Processes by the Pacific Education Institute (14.75 MB). This volume was developed to help K-12 teachers introduce their students to the methodologies used for scientific field research and guide them through the process of conducting field studies. In particular, this volume demonstrates how to use descriptive and comparative methodologies for field studies.
Show Me A Picture, Tell Me A Story; An Introduction to Graphs for the Analysis of Ecological Data from Schoolyard Science Research Studies (1.23 MB) produced by Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Program. This manual introduces teachers to options for organizing, manipulating, and graphing student data. It includes background information as well as multiple examples of graphs from data collected by teachers and students in the course of schoolyard research studies. The basic concepts and approach are applicable to many graphing programs available on computers, and also to graphing data by hand.
Graphing Exercises (1.47 MB) produced by Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Program. This publication provides step-by-step instructions for creating several types of graphs in Microsoft Excel.