Ecologists recognize that sharing research findings with the public is crucial for developing strong broader impact programs, yet can be difficult and time consuming to enact. Additionally, integration of authentic data into K-16 courses helps develop student quantitative abilities. Here we introduce Data Nuggets, free activities that can potentially achieve both goals. Data Nuggets (http://datanuggets.org) are classroom activities that bring cutting edge research into the classroom, giving students practice interpreting quantitative information and making evidence-based claims. Our goal is to engage students in the practices of science through an innovative approach that combines scientific content from authentic research with key concepts necessary for quantitative reasoning. To assess the efficacy of Data Nuggets we are conducting a fully randomized experimental trial in 30 high school biology classrooms across the country. We predict students in classrooms using Data Nuggets will demonstrate (1) a deeper understanding of quantitative reasoning in context, (2) improved understanding of the practices and processes of science, (3) greater engagement in the classroom, and (4) greater motivation for, and interest in science. In addition, scientists who create Data Nuggets practice their communication skills and disseminate both the process of science and research findings with K-12 students, undergraduates, and teachers.
Establishing Data Nugget efficacy will provide the field with new information about whether supplementing existing curriculum with short interventions can improve student outcomes. While the efficacy study is set to run in the 2017-2018 academic year, we have preliminary evidence of Data Nugget efficacy. After six years of development we have observed the use of Data Nuggets in hundreds classrooms and by thousands of students, grades 4-16. To begin to identify effects, we conducted a survey and sent it out to 163 known users. Teachers reported that students who use Data Nuggets as part of their science curriculum (1) improve their quantitative reasoning and attitudes towards science, (2) are more interested and engaged in science, and (3) are more excited to conduct their own inquiry projects and graph data. During classroom inquiry activities, students using Data Nuggets were better able to think critically about data and communicate their findings to their peers and through writing. Teachers noted that students connected with the idea of being a scientist themselves; one teacher responded that students do not often get to see scientists who are women, and the fact that young female scientists create many Data Nuggets is something that really stood out.