Statistics for Action aims to help adults understand how to read and interpret data, and shares resources with which to do that in a classroom or community setting.
The site is focused primarily on data about environmental issues, air pollution, toxins in our drinking water or soil, chemicals in our food. Because of this, it is easy to draw connections from the materials to students’ lived experiences.
The site has a wealth of ready-to-use materials, designed by educators, for teachers to choose from. The material is already targeted to adults, so it is well suited for adult literacy classrooms. All of the materials start from the understanding that reading and interpreting data is difficult for everyone and especially challenging for those with lower literacy skills. Therefore all of the materials start from the basics and focus on building understanding as you go. There is minimal required background knowledge to get started.
Resources include dozens of exercises and a few complete lesson plans. A great many of the resources are in English and Spanish. As a teacher, you will be most interested in the page “Activities” under the menu “All Materials.” You should also visit the page “SfA for Educators,” under the menu “Using SfA,” which has a few lesson plans developed for and tested in the classroom.
The most challenging part of this website is that there are so many resources, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
I’d say, start with your students. Ask them what environmental issues they are concerned with. Is there a factory in their area that they are worried about? Are there unsafe bodies of water in their neighborhood? Are they concerned about GMOs in their diet? Then determine what is it that students want to find out. Start there, and then choose exercises that fit their concerns and questions.
Another great place to start is the issue of The Change Agent that was co-written by SfA, which you can find on the website under the “All Materials” menu.
Once you have your topic, or issue, you can go through the categories of materials to see which aspect of understanding statistics you’d like to delve into with your class. The categories are: understanding, analyzing, assessing, and communicating.
Some exercises are targeted at helping students understand dense technical texts. I loved an exercise that had small groups of students each look at a small chunk of a technical text and write down observations/ questions/ next steps on sticky-notes, which were categorized on the board so we could make observations as a full group. (This exercise is called “A First Look at Technical Documents”.)
There are some exercises well suited for math classrooms. One exercise I loved was about understanding how exposure to toxins works. It asks students to calculate exposure in several different scenarios. This exercise led to rich discussion as we talked about how students went through different processes to calculate the exposure. We put a few methods on the board for the same scenario and discussed which ones worked and which didn’t. (This exercise is called “Exposed!”)