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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cary Institute educators available to help in teachers’ classrooms?

Depending on our availability, we may be able to visit your classroom to help with projects, either virtually or in person depending on locality. To increase your chances of securing a classroom visit, please register by Friday, November 22, 2023.

Please also check out our recorded webinars  that provide guidance on topics such as basic data analysis, making a creative project, and how to support your students’ Data Jam process.

What help is available from Cary Institute educators for students directly?

Cary Institute educators are delighted to answer any questions students have! Students can either sign up for a drop-in support session or email us ( with their questions about the data or the creative project. In many cases we are able to send specific questions about the data directly to the researchers who collected the data.

We are also offering 1:1 Virtual drop-in sessions for students January 16 - February 15, 2024. Advisors are welcome to join their students during these sessions, but we expect students to play a leading role in asking questions and responding to feedback about their projects. Sessions are offered for 15-minutes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons/evenings. We will send a reminder email to advisors in January when students can sign up for these sessions.

We also recommend checking out the following videos as a way to learn about Data Jam and get inspiration:

How to Data Jam
A Quest for Evidence

A great example of a project that is creative and fun and effectively frames the story of the data in an engaging short film: River Wars.

Finally, check out Data Jam projects on Cary Institute’s YouTube playlist as well as in our Project Gallery.

Can a student register and participate independently of their teacher or class?

Yes. Any elementary (grades 4-5), middle, or high school student or student individual or team is eligible to participate. A student does not have to register through their teacher. They do, however, need to have an adult represent them or their team as an advisor. This can be a parent, guardian, or another trusted adult.

What happened to the Family Data Jam category?

For the 2021-22 Data Jam, we added a new category - Junior Data Jam - for elementary school students in grades 4-5 to replace Family Data Jam. While Family Data Jam engaged a small number of participants in 2020, participation in 2021 suggested that a new category for younger students would attract more interest.

What do the different dataset levels mean?

The simple answer is this:

    Level 1= Easy,
    Level 2= Moderate
    Level 3=Challenging

Dataset levels are derived by looking at the number of variables in the dataset and by the sheer amount of data collected. Elementary students will most likely work with Level 1 datasets. Most middle schoolers will be successful with a Level 1 or 2 dataset, and the appropriate level for high schoolers depends on their data experience and determination. Drop us a line if you need help selecting an appropriate dataset.

Why do projects need to be submitted online?

All projects must be submitted online because judging for merit prizes takes place online. This means that all of the files submitted online must clearly show the project in its entirety because that is how the judges will see it. If you create a 3-D object, send us lots of photos so we can see it from all angles (or even submit a video with it!).

How should a team present their creative data display digitally so they can submit it online?

It's up to students to determine the best way to present their project for online viewing. Most participants choose to either photograph or video record their work. Participants usually take photographs of their comic strips, dioramas, sculptures, and paintings, or record a YouTube video with a quick narration describing their project. Students also record YouTube videos of their choreographed dances, puppet shows, movies, original songs, and stop-motion videos.

Important note about videos:  All videos must be available through YouTube. Students must include a link to their video in the report, and the video must be "unlisted" so that judges can view it. The use of copyrighted music in project videos may result in YouTube's removal of these videos from their website. Check out Free Music Archive and other free music websites for tunes available through Creative Commons. If students want to use copyrighted music on YouTube, they must first obtain permission from the original creator. 

Remember, the judges will be determining prize winners based on what you upload online, so be sure that they include a narrative description of pieces as needed. Take a look at our 2014-2023 Winning Project Gallery for ideas about how to display projects digitally.

When is the next virtual Data Jam workshop for teachers?

Visit our Workshops page to check our past webinars, new postings for future workshops, or email your name to to sign up to receive email updates through our Ecosystem Teaching Newsletter. These workshops are optional, but highly recommended for new Data Jam teachers. Additionally, we encourage you to join our Data Jam Network Facebook group, where we will be posting opportunities for webinars geared towards students and instructors.