Database projects can make science education a new experience for pupils. Usually they are a combination of an outdoor excursion and an in-school database activity, giving students both experiences in nature and an ICT activity. As the observations made outside are stored in a database, they can be reused by others via the Internet.
Examples of database projects
What is a database project?
For a database project, pupils go out into nature and make scientific observations. They can be very simple, e.g. looking for plants, birds, and insects and taking photos. Or, for older students, they can be made more sophisticated, involving the use of biological keys to determine the species for instance. Other examples involve using lab equipment determine quality of water samples, or investigate the environmental radioactivity in special locations. Monitoring the quality of water, soil and air is easy, using database projects that will soon be offered by this portal.
Each observation is recorded in an online database. Using existing online databases avoids the hassle of setting up your own database, and you can benefit from the support of a professional database team maintaining the project.
So, just go to your computer room and let the pupils input their data via an ordinary web browser. Some data may require analysis or processing with some standard software. For example, digital photographs usually require some size reduction before storing in a database - so pupils will learn about resizing images with image processing software. You can find links and advice related to software here.
Usually, for each observation, the coordinates of the location should also be given – depending on the project. Xplora plans to use this concept to offer a large Europe-wide Geographical Information System (GIS), which will allow drawing of maps of observations. It also will allow you to compare your data with that of others, observing the same phenomena at a different location.
The analysis of data might be on an individual basis in the classroom, but it is also possible to arrange cooperative projects around a common topic in geographically disparate regions. This can be particularly useful for e.g. comparing mild maritime climates such as the UK with the climate of the Mediterranean, comparing and contrasting local plant life, and more.
The sunset project: a database project run by Xplora
In this project pupils are invited to observe and note the exact time of the sunset, and the precise compass direction where the sun sets, according to the geographical coordinates of their school. Then teachers will be able to upload the results on the Xplora website, and compare them to other schools.
Read the full description of the sunset project.
Advantages of database projects
There are many, including:
• Re-usability of data - pupils feel that their work has a meaning lasting longer than the actual class activity.
• Comparability of previous results at the same location with actual ones allows time series analysis.
• Comparability of results sorted by geographical regions allows comparison of results with that of project partners.
• After a certain geographical data density is given, a GIS system may be used to visualize results.
• Cooperation in projects is easier via databases, as the results of partners can be retrieved from the database and do not need to be inputted again and again by the project partners, which frees time for more meaningful aspects of project work.