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Coastal Sees What’s the Catch? Activity - Tweaked for 10-12th Grade ;)

grades 6-8 grades 9-12 graphing math science vizualizations

Tweaked Lesson Plans 

This article is part of the “LP Tweaks” blog series showcasing how small adjustments to the questions, organization, and/or data moves within your existing curriculum can help align the learning to different data skills for your learners. This original lesson is strong, and the intention is not to communicate otherwise but rather to share how you could adjust things for a different desired outcome.

Written by: Naomi W


You are looking for a lesson to help your students better explore HS-LS2-2 “Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics”. And you come across this great data-based lesson from Coastal SEES: Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability using scientific data on population shift by latitude, depth, and season for black sea bass. Your students have been studying ecosystems dynamics, functioning, and resilience in this unit and they have liked hands-on graphing that you have done with them in the past. And you are excited how this lesson could help them use representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence.

However, based on your students' performance in the last unit you are looking to give them more time to “Describe Visual Patterns” in a practiced way to deepen their “Analyzing & Interpreting Data” skills (see Building Blocks for Data Literacy to explore the corresponding data skills of these areas more).

You are torn, you like the Coastal SEES lesson from NSF (National Science Foundation Project #1426891), but you are worried the questions aren’t directly getting at the data skills your learners need to practice at this point in the year, but the content is. What do you do?

Let’s check out some easy optional tweaks to make the lesson more what you are looking for now for your students.

Here is an example of how we can add a few questions to the lesson to more directly help your current students practice data skills we know they are weaker on (or we are more interested in targeting this specific data interaction) at this point in the year.

The questions are designed to help students “determine multiple types of trends (linear, quadratic, power, exponential) and provide quantitative explanations of trends in the context of a problem” in grades 10-12 in appropriate ways. They do not add a large amount to the workload of the students, but they do provide more targeted practice of these skills. These new questions will help the students get a better understanding of the data they are looking at so that they can more deeply explore if there are correlations between that data and seasons.


Even though the students have been answering empirical questions based on the data given, they need to analyze and understand the data first in order to answer the questions on the worksheets.  These added questions are designed specifically to help the students dive deeper into how to analyze the given data to better understand phenomena or problems directly. Therefore, with the addition of 10 new questions – 4 new questions about Figure 2 from the lesson, 3 new questions about Figure 3,

and 2 new questions to compare the data from Figures 2 and 3 – you can continue to use the tried-and-true lesson you found while also better aligning it to your current learners' needs and/or your desired focus areas for your learners to practice data skills.

I suggest adding the 10th question due to the fact that values on the Y- axis of the graphs for Spring and Fall do not match up with each other. This could be confusing for students when they are analyzing the graphs. Be sure when students are looking at multiple graphs to compare data that they first analyze one graph at a time. I usually tell the students to cover up the other graphs with a piece of paper so they are not distracted by the other.

To me, that feels like a win-win…using a lesson that you like with a more strategic data focus to help learners build their skills :)

Will this exact tweak work for everyone or every lesson? Absolutely not!

In fact, the other suggested adjustments in this lesson would help students that are needing to work on their “Generating new Questions” skills at this time of the year. So rather than just “Describing Visual Patterns” you could prompt students after looking at the Spring data, after looking at the Fall data, and then after comparing the two to pose new questions raised by data for further investigation. The key is to encourage students to develop their own questions from the data. Meaning it is a question that would deepen their understanding of the phenomenon at play here. So less, “why is the Fall depth low in 1975?” and more “does the cyclical pattern of Spring depths correlate with water temperature?”

The point is that with a better sense of what we are working towards with data skills (see Building Blocks for Data Literacy to explore the range of data skills K-12 our learners should be working to master) we can be empowered to make our existing curriculum work better for us and our learners…rather than needing to find or write all new curriculum.

Give it a try! What in your next lesson with data can you slightly adjust to make it better hit the skills you want your students to practice? Let us know how it goes.