A downloadable version of this activity is available in the following format:
Setting the stage: The Census at School story
The Census at School project started in the United Kingdom (U.K.) in 2000 as a way of providing real data for data-handling activities in schools and of increasing awareness about the census among students. What was supposed to be a one-time project soon developed into an exciting new initiative that has grown to include South Africa, Queensland, Australia and New Zealand. This initiative continues to expand, with Canada joining the project in 2003.
Each country has its own questionnaire, which includes some questions that are common to all of the countries involved. Statistics Canada has developed the Canadian online Census at School questionnaire and database.
Any class from Grade 4 to Grade 12 can go online and contribute their responses to the Canadian database. Teachers can access their class data in either an Excel spreadsheet file or a comma separated value (CSV) file, which can be used in other spreadsheet programs. When sufficient data have been collected from Canadian schools, random samples of Canadian data will be made available.
The U.K. Census at School website houses an international dataset and a random data selector. Anyone can request up to 500 records of international student responses. The students are not identified.
After your students fill out the online Canadian questionnaire, they will work with international data from the U.K. random data selector.
Filling in the Census at School questionnaire
Teacher preparation: Go to www.censusatschool.ca and click on the Teachers button on the sidebar. Read “How to participate” and register your class. Make sure you review the survey questions and accompanying teacher’s notes. Before your students fill in the survey, have them measure and record the measurements of their height, right foot, wrist and hand span as explained in the teacher’s notes.
In the computer lab, have your students complete the online questionnaire at www.censusatschool.ca. Students will need to work individually at the computers.
Teacher preparation: Review the Student Handout and the PowerPoint Instructions. These instructions walk you through the process of requesting and receiving data, transferring the data from a spreadsheet into a statistical software program and modelling the data.
In a regular classroom, demonstrate the process using a computer installed with a statistical software program (such as Fathom), Internet access and a computer projector. Distribute the Student Handout. Show your students how to request data and model data (Steps 1 to 9). Make sure you show them how to use text boxes and type in the explanations required for Steps 6 to 9. Engage the class in dialogue about the strengths, weaknesses and refinements of the models created by using different filters.
For homework, ask the students to complete Step 1 (request a dataset) from home. Hand out a printout of the PowerPoint Instructions to your students in order to guide them through the process. The students should request and receive their data file through their home e-mail, then save it to a disk and bring it to class the following day.
In the computer lab, pair up your students at the computers. Students should all have their own dataset saved on disk. However, each pair will only need to use one dataset. In case some pairs of students have no dataset to work from, you may want to have another sample dataset on hand, either saved on a network drive or on a few extra disks. Ask the students to follow the PowerPoint instructions to complete Steps 2 to 9 in theStudent Handout. One student in the pair can read out the instructions while the other operates the computer. After each step, the students should switch roles.
Once the students get to Steps 8 and 9, you may want to pause in order to demonstrate the use of filters.
Circulate around the room and monitor students’ conversations in order to identify and help struggling pairs.
The students should save their files using a file naming convention you give them (e.g., firstname_lastname_linear). If you want your students to print and hand in a hard copy of their files, be sure to ask them to insert a textbox with their name into their document (so that you will be able to identify it as theirs!).
Third and/or fourth day
In the computer lab, pair the students up again to create their own data story (Steps 10 to 15). They should use the presentation software that you have available, such as PowerPoint or Corel Presentation. You may want to show your students how to copy their data displays from the statistical software program and paste them into the presentation software. Part 3 of the PowerPoint instructions walks the students through this process.
The next day or two
Have the students present their data stories in your regular classroom using a computer and computer projector. Allow about five minutes per presentation, with two to three more minutes for critical questions from the class and teacher. If your class has more than 20 students, you will want to schedule two days for presentations.
You may want to archive the student projects by burning them all onto a compact disk. This will provide sample data story presentations, which you can show to future classes.