Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students build skills in identifying and constructing the most appropriate graphs to display real phenological data on the breeding habits of magpies. Students will consider the different ways data representation can be used to look for trends in the environment before making recommendations based on their finding.


This lesson is the second in a series of three lessons that will enable students to analyse, visualise and effectively communicate data. The entire unit of work can be downloaded from the following link, Citizen Science – Mathematics – Years 7 & 8.


The lessons in this unit have been developed in partnership with Earthwatch. Earthwatch developed the ClimateWatch program with the Bureau of Meteorology and The University of Melbourne to understand how changes in temperature and rainfall are affecting the seasonal behaviour of Australia’s plants and animals. 



Learning intentions:

  • Students are able to use raw data to present and communicate an underlying message
  • Students understand which types of graphs are better at communicating given data
  • Students understand how conclusions can be drawn from graphs

21st century skills:

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 7 Mathematics

  • Identify and investigate issues involving numerical data collected from primary and secondary sources (ACMSP169)
  • Construct and compare a range of data displays including stem-and-leaf plots and dot plots (ACMSP170)

Year 8 Mathematics

  • Investigate techniques for collecting data, including census, sampling and observation (ACMSP284)

Syllabus outcomes: MA4-1WM, MA4-3WM, MA4-19SP.

General capabilities: Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability

Relevant parts of Year 7 achievement standards: Students construct stem-and-leaf plots and dot-plots.

Relevant parts of Year 8 achievement standards: Students choose appropriate language to describe events and experiments. They explain issues related to the collection of data and the effect of outliers on means and medians in that data.

Topics: Biodiversity, climate change, sustainability

Unit of work: ClimateWatch: Citizen Science – Mathematics – Years 7 & 8

Time required: 75 min.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – teacher will prompt class discussions and facilitate group work.

Resources required: Student Worksheets and Graph Factsheet– one copy each per student. Device capable of presenting a video to the class. Enough computers or laptops with Excel installed to enable student to work in pairs or small groups. Flowering Plant Data, Magpie Data Set and Temperature Phenology Graphs loaded onto students’ computers or laptops. Class set of graph paper, rulers, pens and pencils. Sticky tape.

Keywords: Earthwatch, ClimateWatch, Data, graphs, bias, climate change, phenology, biodiversity.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions:

  • Students are able to use raw data to present and communicate an underlying message
  • Students understand which types of graphs are better at communicating given data
  • Students understand how conclusions can be drawn from graphs

Success criteria: Students can…

  • organise and graphically represent data to communicate a perspective
  • draw conclusions and make decisions based on data sets
  • consider how misleading graphs are used to influence opinion
  • construct a range of graphs using phenology data, comparing their effectiveness to communicate facts


Teacher content information: If we want to better understand the world around us, we need data – lots of it. Many industries are using data collection, analysis and communication to measure and predict a range of outcomes. From analysis of weather data used by airports to create flight paths, to banks, hospitals and mining companies measuring their carbon emissions, data is going to be

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: There are many ways to collect data and even more ways to present it.

Part A: Presentation Matters


Which data items stand out

Is the data easy to read? Why/why not?
How could you change the presentation of this data? How would you visually present this data?
Raw Flowering Plants data        
Organised Flowering Plants Data        
Flowering Plants Graph        


Read the following articleThree Ways Climate Deniers Cherry Pick Facts (, and list three sentences that you think are important:

Part C: From Data to Amazing Graphs

Use this area to plan your graph using the magpie data

Type of graph:

Why have you chosen this graph


Which fields from the data set will be included in the graph?

Describe how the graph will show the audience a change in magpie nesting over time:

Roughly, sketch

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