Public Lab Research note

Workshop X: What Action Does our Data Support?

by purl | March 17, 2021 18:56 17 Mar 18:56 | #25955 | #25955

This lesson is part of a series of lessons designed for educators to facilitate student-led inquiry around environmental topics. If there are time constraints, this lesson can be split into two at the Elaborate portion of the lesson. During Phase I of this series, students work towards identifying and learning about environmental topics.

You can learn more about this series here.

You can access this lesson plan as a Google Doc here.


Time: 85 minutes

Materials: Computers (with internet access), laptop that can project to the entire classroom.

Guiding Question: What action does our data support?

Objective: Students suggest solutions and relate their data to the "big picture".


Time: 10 minutes

Defining the Problem

Let's look back at our new and improved models. What do we know now that we didn't know before? Let's list that out in a shared space where all can see.

Looking at our model, where are there problems? We'll make a list of all of these things. To help facilitate problem identification, we can ask students to respond to the following questions:

  • What did we already know was an issue?
  • What new issues did we identify?
  • What about our models could be changed to improve the system?
  • What about the tools or methods we used could be improved?
  • Are there tools that we wish existed?


Time: 25 minutes

Delineate the Problem

Now we want to break down our larger problems into smaller, more concrete issues. before we do that, we should check to see if there are problems for which we may not be able to design a solution. For example, "it rains a lot" may be a problem, but the technology to control the weather does not yet exist (and if science fiction has taught us anything, it's that manipulating the weather is a bad idea).

To break these issues down, we will complete charts like the one above. We need to know what pieces make up each of these problems. Some pieces might be questions, others might have answers.

These smaller questions would be easier for us to create solutions to than the larger issues of students not recycling.


Time: 15 minutes

Split the students into smaller groups based on the problems that they are most interested in working on. Ideally, the smallest groups are at least three students. Students will work in small groups to define their problem, design and test solutions. It's okay if not every problem proposed has a group working toward its solutions.

Delimiting the Problem

Have students fill out this constraints & criteria worksheet, where they will extrapolate on the scope of the problem, constraints and guidelines that will help define the success of the project. Once students have brainstormed responses in their respective groups, have them share with the class, giving no more than a minute or two to each group.


Time: 15 minutes

Developing Possible Solutions

Brainstorm as many solutions as possible. Do a three minute continuous writing exercise. Students will spend three minutes writing down every possible solution that they can think of. Set a timer and ask students to write for the whole time.

Discuss the solutions in small groups.

Test Possible Solutions

What can students do to test things?

Test. Students test their design solution, gather data on how well it works and identify any issues. If it didn't solve the problem, then they redesign. If it solved the problem and met the criteria and constraints, then they share and critique.

Students can utilize the list below to help develop their design: - Computer Assisted Design

*3D Slash: optimal for groups/classroom settings

*3D Crafter: allows for more complex designs

*A list of other free CAD programs from Sculpteo

  • Build a prototype

*recommended material: cardboard, cardstock, foam core

*further reading available here on everyday prototyping materials

  • Use your model to test some possible changes


Time: 15 minutes

Share and Critique

Students present how they solved the problem. They can also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of everyone's solutions. This sharing also reinforces the idea that one problem can have many solutions.


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