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Friday Institute’s HI-RiSE Team Awarded First Place at National Lesson Plan Competition

Students work together in a classroom in front of a laptop

The thrill of the ride, the speed of the tracks and the heart-pounding rush of adrenaline—there’s truly nothing like a roller coaster to get your blood pumping and brain firing. It’s a unique framework that Friday Institute researchers recently developed into a lesson plan titled, “The Thrills of Roller Coasters: Using Data to Make Recommendations,” which took first place at the Data Science for Everyone (DS4E) Coalition’s inaugural Bite-Sized Data Science Lesson Plan Competition.

The competition evaluated high-quality, easy-to-teach, data-science related lesson plans for middle school and high school classrooms, submitted by teachers and educational organizations from around the country. The event was presented by the DS4E Coalition, a national organization whose work addresses system-wide policy and programmatic changes that expand K-12 data science education access. Moving forward, the winning submissions will inspire how data science can be taught and have the potential to be scaled nationwide. 

Developed by the Friday Institute’s Hub for Research and Innovation in Statistics Education (HI-RiSE) team, and led by the team’s director – NC State College of Education Distinguished Professor, Friday Institute Faculty Fellow and Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching winner Hollylynne Lee – the award-winning lesson plan was informed by two recent efforts. Dr. Hollylynne Lee talks with students working on a laptop

First, the team developed a new framework that describes the six phases involved in thinking like a data scientist: Frame the Problem, Consider and Gather Data, Process Data, Explore and Visualize Data, Consider Models, and Communicate and Propose Actions. The second effort added elements from a lesson that Lee taught at Baylor University as part of her interview for the Cherry Award, which incorporated a stronger focus on measurement in phase two and more explicit attention to data moves in phase three. 

Bringing together ideas from both of these efforts, the winning lesson plan builds upon years of work from the HI-RiSE team. Since 2015, the team has leveraged roller coasters for data investigations by analyzing variables like top speed, seating arrangement and length of track. 

Using this real-world context, students become engaged in making sense of the data, and along the way, they also learn to recognize trends and patterns. Over the years, the team has also had opportunities to bring local students from Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School (CCMMS) into the Friday Institute’s Discovery Classroom to experience preliminary versions of their roller coaster investigation. Through this partnership, the Friday Institute has advanced efforts for producing high-quality lessons for students while also expanding professional development opportunities for teachers. 

“We are very excited to have our lesson plan recognized by the Data Science for Everyone Coalition and to be part of the effort to get more data science lessons in the hands of K-12 teachers,” says Lee. “We want students and teachers to have fun and experience the joy of learning about a phenomena using data, and we’re thrilled that this plan can help promote that.”Other members of the HI-RiSE team who co-authored the lesson include Friday Institute research scholar and HI-RiSE co-director Gemma Mojica, Friday Institute research associate Emily Thrasher and graduate research assistants Zachary Vaskalis and Bruce Graham.