This spring, Cary Institute educators hosted two Data Jams, one in New York’s Hudson Valley and the other in Baltimore, Maryland. Both competitions, now in their second year, challenge middle and high school students to interpret ecological data and creatively communicate their findings to general audiences.
Two hundred and forty students participated in the Hudson Data Jam, more than doubling enrollment from 2014. Projects explored everything from invasive species to biogeochemistry using video, art, and song. A team of 80 scientists and educators judged submissions, with winners honored at a ceremony at Marist College. The event was made possible, in part, by a $10,000 grant from the Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund, which is managed by the Open Space Institute.
Baltimore Data Jam participants gained their inspiration from urban watershed data collected as part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES). Winners were invited to present their projects at the signing of the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Accord, where they had the opportunity to meet Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as well as Congressional and Federal Agency representatives.
Planning is already underway for the 2016 Data Jams. Preliminary assessments done by Cary Institute educators show that participation improves students’ scientific knowledge, data literacy skills, and motivation for learning about ecology and their local ecosystems.