Website review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2020

Data Nuggets

High-quality, free science activities for students to analyze authentic quantitative data

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Math, Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Data Nuggets tell the story of scientists and their research, use real scientific data, offer leveled activities, and often showcase female scientists.

Cons: PDF format and text-heavy worksheets limit accessibility for some students, and opportunities for creative problem-solving are limited.

Bottom Line: Data Nuggets achieve their goal of providing quality, real-world data for students to examine and apply.

Science teachers can easily incorporate Data Nuggets into the curriculum they already have. A wide array of biology concepts are available, such as coral reefs, climate change, animal behavior, insects, plants, wetlands, heredity, biomimicry, and DNA. Regardless of the Data Nugget, teachers can use it with their preferred teaching strategies. Whole-group, small-group, and blended learning will all work well with Data Nuggets. Keep in mind that both student and teacher versions of Data Nuggets are in PDF format, which may make them inaccessible for some screen readers. Teachers can overcome this by copying and pasting the text into a friendlier format, or by directing students to that particular Data Nugget's website. 

Each Data Nugget does come with some helpful features. Teacher notes give more background information to teachers and provide suggestions for discussion topics. A "Check for Understanding" feature reminds teachers to stop and assess students, particularly after the science story that starts each Data Nugget (for example, "Explain why eelgrass is important for Marsh ecosystems"). "Meta Moment" features have students reflect on their learning and the reasoning behind their inferences. 

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Teachers must visit the Data Nuggets website to see the different scientific topics that are available. Next, educators must fill out a form requesting access to the specific Data Nuggets activities. Once approved, teachers will receive a link to a PDF file of the Data Nuggets they want. Student versions of Data Nuggets, as well as grading rubrics and other resources, are freely available on the Data Nuggets website. There are also digital Data Nuggets available in partnership with DataClassroom, and those offer a completely online experience with more interactivity.

Each Data Nugget begins with a featured scientist and a story that sets up the reason for the research. These stories also provide background knowledge that students need to understand the data. For example, the Data Nugget on urchins explains how coral reefs are disappearing. The scientist, Sarah, wants to help coral reefs, which compete with algae. Sarah knows that sea urchins are herbivores that eat algae. She creates an experiment to see if the presence of sea urchins will help corals thrive by reducing their competition with algae. Students are asked to complete a food web activity, and receive a table and graph of the data that Sarah collected. The remaining pages have questions that help students interpret the data by making evidence-based claims. 

Data Nuggets delivers on its promise to bring scientific data into the classroom and expand on students' quantitative analysis abilities. The authors have included some options for differentiated instruction, and there are materials available in Spanish. Each Data Nugget has three student versions (A-C). Type A gives the students a labeled graph with data. Type B asks students to place the data on a graph that has labels and scale. With Type C, students must graph the data and label the axis and scale. Similarly, Data Nuggets come in four levels, ranked by reading, vocabulary, and the complexity of content. Data Nuggets says that level 1 content works for elementary and above. Creative teachers could modify a Data Nugget's content and make this work, but left as-is, it is probably best for fifth grade and up. So, while all of the resources might not be accessible to all students, there are some features that help adapt materials for more kids.

Because the focus is on the data and how to analyze it, there are fewer opportunities for creative problem-solving or broader scientific thinking. Each worksheet does end, however,  with an emphasis on science as an ongoing process. For a nuts-and-bolts approach to data using real-world experiments, Data Nuggets delivers. 


Overall Rating


Data Nuggets are presented as a worksheet, but the activities are authentic and well designed. Creative teachers can build on the activity to make it more engaging for students.


Every Data Nuggets activity provides excellent background knowledge, real data, and questions that build quantitative ability, although the nondigital format doesn't allow for much creative thought. 


The Data Nuggets website has resources that provide more information for students and teachers.

Common Sense reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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