Data jams: Promoting data literacy and science engagement while encouraging creativity

TitleData jams: Promoting data literacy and science engagement while encouraging creativity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsForster M, Bestelmeyer S, Baez-Rodriguez N, Berkowitz A, Caplan B, Esposito R, Grace E, McGee S
JournalScience Teacher
Start Page48
Date Published08/2018
ARIS Log Number365749

Thousands of students around the country have participated in activities using the Data Jam model, creating poetry, songs, videos, or sculpture to improve their data literacy, gain knowledge of local science research, and creatively express their findings. This article introduces the Data Jam model and how teachers can use it in classroom or after-school settings, supported by vignettes of student projects and feedback from teachers and students. Data is the lens through which we increasingly view our world, and scientific data literacy skills are a key component of the Next Generation Science Standards’ (NGSS) science and engineering practices (Berkowitz, Ford, and Brewer 2005). Understanding how to engage with data, however, can be challenging for students. Most have limited experience with authentic scientific data sets, and find them complex and intimidating. Clear, creative communication is crucial to helping students (and the general public) understand data and scientific findings. Interest in creative and artistic science communication tools has increased, as evidenced by the proliferation of projects such as the SciShow YouTube video series and the Dance Your Ph.D. contest from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (see “On the web.”) Inspired by this movement, four science education organizations have developed the Data Jam model to engage high school students in learning about ecological research while igniting their creativity. Students analyze and interpret environmental data sets, then communicate their findings through a creative medium. This approach also supports the STEM to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) movement, which was initially championed by the Rhode Island School of Design as a way to capitalize on the creative synergy between art and scientific disciplines.