Data Science for Primary Schools

People tend to assume that Data Science is a high level skill, only applicable to high school – and the senior years of high school at that. But engaging with data is something we can do from very early on.

Got a kinder class you want to do some data with? How about getting the class to keep track of who does what activity each day, using tally marks on a white board or flip chart, and then work out which activity is the most popular? Then do it again only this time tally which activities girls do and which activities boys do? (The results may surprise them.) This is data science.

In primary school, kids can collect and analyse data from their own environments. They can do a rubbish audit and work out which types of rubbish are the biggest problem in the yard.

The younger kids can do that simply by piling the chip packets in one pile, the ice cream wrappers in another, and the cling wrap in a third, and then looking at which one is bigger.

The older kids can be making graphs. They could look at which types of rubbish are more common on canteen days, versus when the canteen is not open. Then they could work out a solution to their worst rubbish types – for example, if it’s chip packets, maybe the canteen could use large chip packets and distribute them in smaller lots in reusable containers.

Or they could do a biodiversity audit of a section of garden in the playground, perhaps comparing a garden which has only one type of plant with a garden which has a variety. They could plant a veggie garden and measure plant grown in a bed with compost versus a bed without compost.

Anything that allows them to collect data about their own environment and then uses that data to enact positive change – reducing rubbish, increasing biodiversity, attractive native birds to the playground, etc.

It’s really important that we start engaging kids with data science and computation early, because by the time they reach High School they’ve often already lost interest. And that’s a problem for them, and a much bigger problem for our society! But more on that in another blog post.

PS If you’re a primary teacher and need some help with the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum, you might like to check out my “Demystifying the Digital Technologies Curriculum”  posts on my old blog.

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