Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students learn to become citizen scientists by collecting data on the Australian magpie using the ClimateWatch app and website. Students will gain insight into how data from citizen science projects can be used mathematically to  impact scientific understanding of big issues, such as climate change.


This lesson is the first 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 ClimateWatch. ClimateWatch was developed by Earthwatch 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 be able to critically analyse valid methods of data collection
  • Students understand how data can impact scientific research and understanding

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) 

Year 8 Mathematics

  • Investigate techniques for collecting data, including census, sampling and observation (ACMSP284)
  • Explore the practicalities and implications of obtaining data through sampling using a variety of investigative processes (ACMSP206)

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

General capabilities: Literacy, Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding

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: 110 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – facilitate class discussions and independent data collection. Teachers will also need to facilitate a brief walk through the school grounds. 

Resources required: Student Worksheets – one copy per student. Enough computers/tablets for groups of 3-4 students to access the ClimateWatch website and app.

Keywords: Earthwatch, ClimateWatch, Data, citizen science, 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 be able to critically analyse valid methods of data collection
  • Students understand how data can impact scientific research and understanding

Success criteria:
Students can…

  • ... see connections between existing mathematical skills and citizen science projects
  • ... identify what makes data valid and relate this to how citizen science data is collected
  • ... accurately collect data


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 the cornerstone of students' future careers.

Earthwatch's ClimateWatch program is a working example of the power of data. The work of the ClimateWatch

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: We are collecting data as citizen scientists. To do this we need to understand WHAT we are collecting and HOW

Make a tally of plant, birds and other animals that you see one day, either coming to school or going from school.

Part A: The Need for Data

Record any plant, animal or bird during one trip from your home to school. Fill in the table below.
Date Plant  Bird Other Animal Weather

Temperature (∘C):

Overall description

PART B: Gathering Data for Scientists

  1. Is the data that you have collected categorical/qualitative or numerical/quantitative? 
  2. How much data did you collect in following categories:
    • Plant 
    • Bird
    • Other animal

3. How much data would you have if you continued to collect every day for a year?

4. How much data would you have if the whole class continued collecting every day for a year?

5. If we had a whole year's data from the class, what patterns might we be able to see?

6. C

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