Inquiry Strategies
for the Journey North Teacher

Making Sense of Data
Explaining What Happened

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Once students have followed a scientist's study, tracked migration data, or launched their own investigation, they can try to make sense of observations and other data.

1.) Start by posting a large sheet of butcher paper in front of the class and list these categories:

  • What did we (or the scientists) observe?
  • How could we summarize the data?
  • What do we know from previous experience?
  • What information did we get from Journey North or other sources?

2.) Have students review and discuss the information on the chart and do the following:

  • Suggest one or more generalizations or explanations* related to the research question.
  • Put a check by items on the list (evidence) that most strongly support their conclusions. (You can also have them cross out items that are irrelevant or not useful in answering their question.)

    Note: Students, like professional scientists, may discover that they have to do more research to explain what happened or answer the question.

3. If you have information on scientists' conclusions or explanations of the same event or phenomena, share them with the class. Ask, How do these ideas compare with yours? What new questions does it raise?

* A generalization applies to a large number of cases (e.g., Robins fly south in the winter). An explanation describes a relationship between two or more variables (e.g., Changes in wind direction affected the eagles' flight patterns).