Data Organization

Background for Teachers

The students now have:

  • Data about the field site, and
  • Data from the lab
  • (And if their question pertains to other sites they have those data as well)

That is a lot of data to sift through. Putting it all in one place, in one spreadsheet will help students find the data they need to answer their question. A pile of slips of paper is a difficult starting place for meaningful data analysis so this preparation step is key.  It helps to have all of the data in one place when conducting analysis of the results as students can refer back to the master spreadsheet to consider the effect of confounding factors.

Although the recommendation in the next classroom activity is for hand graphing of data at this point it is best and easiest to put all data in one electronic spreadsheet. Students can then select and save separately the data that they need for graphing and analysis.

You may be downloading data from the website. Make sure that the students move data from one spreadsheet to another with care. As a class you may want to use the lab data as a base spreadsheet onto which you add the field information as extra columns.


  • To discover any patterns in data students must understand that they need all of their data in a discovery-ready format


  • Students will have a master spreadsheet of all data from which they can select the data that they need to answer their question

Where does this lesson happen in the Project?

This lesson is the second in Unit 5: Data Analysis. It follows Data Warm-ups.

Getting Ready

Get all field data sheets, notes and lab data together. If the lab data are on the website make note of that.

It may also help to have the Table of Field Variables to jog people’s memory of the kinds of information collected in the field.


  • All field data
  • Lab data
  • An electronic or paper spreadsheet

Student Prerequisites

  • Students need to know how to organize a table of information

Time Needed

One class period

Doing the Activity

As a class, determine which variables you have collected. A variable is something you have collected a measurement or observation about. Type or write these variable names across the top row of the spreadsheet or hardcopy table.

Next, fill in the data you collected or had analyzed for each sample. If something is missing leave it blank. Make sure each sample ID matches up with the data values all the way across its row.

When finished be sure to save a copy or make a photocopy and name the file or write on the sheet “Master Copy” so you always have one clean version of the data set in case something happens during the activities. Put the Master copy in a safe place – save to another file or CD, or put it in a class folder or bulletin board if it’s a hard copy.



At this time there is no formative assessment for this activity. We welcome your input.


At this time there is no summary assessment for this activity. We welcome your input.

Lesson Extensions and Supplements

At this time there are no lesson extensions for this activity. We welcome your input.



Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Using mathematics and computational thinking
Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information