I’ve been promising my soc kids for a month that we would get out and do field research; today was a beautiful 75 degrees, so we did some parking lot data collection.
First, they created some hypotheses:
– Cars parked poorly and farther from the doors are kids who arrived late – possibly seniors.
– Kids with higher GPAs have cars that have cleaner interiors.
– Cars without parking tags (i.e. kids who didn’t shell out the $35 for the school tag) will be parked in the back lot, farther from the front doors
– Nicer cars will be farther out to protect from dings/accidents
They figured once they saw their data they would find other connections too.
They then chose their variables and how to measure them. We decided on a Google form, so multiple students with ipads could collect their data in one place easily. They decided to look for:
- Parking tag: student, staff, or tagless?
- Tag #? (They weren’t sure if they could do any post-collection syncing to find out if certain cars were owned by seniors, girls, etc. but they wanted to gather it just to be safe)
- Parking location – back lot closer to river (student section), back lot close to building (faculty), front “band section” (which is cleared for band practice every day), and “non-band” section where your car won’t be disturbed
- Exterior quality: clean, needs a wash rusty, damaged – dents, needs paint, missing pieces (this was a checkbox question so they could choose multiples)
- Interior: tidy (organized/no trash), messy (trash), cluttered (stuff but no trash), didn’t look/couldn’t see
- Make: Ford, GM, Chrysler, German, Japanese, Hyundai, other
- Body style: 4-door, pickup, SUV, minvan/van, convertible, 2-door
- Parking job: straight, pull through/backed in, crooked, over the line, ON the line (I was informed students do this on purpose)
- Color: black, silver, white, tan, red, blue, other
– having a poor connection to the internet because of being outside and thus unable to be sure if they got their data entered
– clarity on some variables – is turquoise “blue” or “other”?
– not having enough people/time to do a whole population (they had intended to get every car measured before the end of class)
– miscommunication – some cars done more than once by multiple students – and interestingly the variables changed!
– a faulty survey – I had the options to make some questions “required” but by not doing that, some question didn’t get answered (probably accidentally) and so we lost that variable on a few cars
I shared the raw data with my students and with the teachers who glanced out their windows and wondered why a whole class of kids looked like they were vandalizing cars. I know my six kids who were absent will be bummed they missed this, but this was a valuable lesson, not necessarily in actual data collection, but in responding to all the stuff that can go wrong!
Our AP chem teacher sent me this Washington Post editorial today on how more kids are majoring in “career-based” STEM fields at the insistence of their parents, even though they might prefer a liberal arts field. Author Steven Pearlstein points out nearly three-quarters of workers do NOT work in a field associated with their major, and that the original goal of college, “Was that after a period of broad intellectual exploration, a major was supposed to give students the experience of mastering one subject, in the process of developing skills such as discipline, persistence, and how to research, analyze, communicate clearly, and think logically.” I am a great example of someone with a sociology degree teaching English full time. While sociology isn’t really a liberal arts degree program, it also isn’t a hard science; we’re in that weird in-between known as the social sciences. I hope to inspire my students to see the toolkit they can develop through all the different classes they take in high school and college, and to see that they are building a skill set to whatever success they will eventually reach.
Enjoy your holiday weekend!