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Science Learning Activity

By Megan McGolrick, Andriea Neto, and Beverly Barnes

Title: Using Excel to Analyze Data

Curriculum: Middle School Science- Science Research

Grade-Level Span: 8th grade

PURPOSE (Objectives):
Students in 8th grade science will:
1. Be able to follow a procedure.
2. Be able to collect and record raw data with precise measurement.
3. Be able to use Microsoft Excel to input data, convert units from English (inches) to Metric
(cm) and calculate averages and uncertainty (error).
4. Be able to use Microsoft Excel to create a bar and line graph.

This learning activity will take 4-5 50-minute class periods in the science classroom and computer lab.
Students will be paired with a partner. Each student will need a computer. One will be used to view a
Power Point titled “Creating a Spreadsheet” and the other will be used to complete the spreadsheet on
Microsoft Excel. (If fewer computers are available, then students will do both activities on one computer.)
Students need access to Microsoft Excel and Power Point.

Day One Procedure:

1. The teacher should model skills needed in data collection including: marking a starting point
with tape on the floor, how to perform a standing jump, using the stop watch, how to run in
place safely, and using a yard stick and how to measure to the tenths place.
2. Assign students into pairs.
3. Give students 20 minutes to collect data.
4. Students should complete 10 trials of a standing jump.
5. Students should then run in place in place for 2 minutes and then complete 10 trials of a
standing jump.
6. All information should be recorded in inches to the nearest tenth.

Days Two and Three Procedures:

1. Students should be reminded of computer lab procedures including: walking to and from the
computer lab, how to enter and exit the lab, seating arrangements, logging in, and saving
2. Students need to bring their data from the previous day.
3. Students will be working in pairs using 2 computers.
4. Students should open up a new Excel document (or the template for modification) on one of
the computers and save it as their own file. If only one computer is used, there is a link to a
blank spreadsheet on the PowerPoint. The blank spreadsheet will update as the student
enters data into the spreadsheet.
5. Students should open up the PowerPoint presentation on the other computer and follow the
directions to record and analyze their data.
6. Project the PowerPoint to assist students.

Microsoft Excel Directions (Power Point Directions)

1. Open the Excel template provided.
2. Save it as your own .xls file.
3. Go to view-header and type your name.
4. Enter data for the trials in inches.
5. If anything pops up to ask if you are managing a list SAY NO!
6. Use a formula to convert data from inches to cm (multiply inches times 2.5) and then use edit-
fill down for the other four cells.
7. Highlight all four columns and then click format-cells (choose number and 2 decimal places.)
8. Click insert-function to calculate an average for the two columns with centimeters only.
9. Use a formula to calculate uncertainty (error) highest minus lowest divided by two for the two
columns marked “centimeters” only.
10. Re-type the averages for each data set into a new worksheet. Name the worksheet
“Averages” (or use the template worksheet called averages).
11. Create a line graph of all trials- open it in a new worksheet and call the worksheet “Graph 1”
(use apple key to highlight cm columns only). Be sure to add titles for axes and an overall title
for the graph.
12. Create a bar graph of averages with labels- save in a new worksheet and call the worksheet
“Graph 2”. To name the series go to chart-source data then click series. You can rename the
series (the blue line).

Day Four Procedure:

1. Distribute Data Analysis Rubric to students and read through the meeting expectations column.
Take questions as needed.
2. Students should use their data in the Excel worksheet to calculate a range (take the average
minus the uncertainty for the bottom number of the range, and the average plus the uncertainty
for the top number of the range). Clarify that this is a BEST VALUE range, or a range of the
average with error (uncertainty) factored in, and not the other “range” that is used in math.
Ex: if the average is 10.5 and the uncertainty is 0.25, the range of the average would be
3. Students should compare the two ranges of the averages to see if there is overlap. This can be
modeled with colored chalk on a chalkboard. If there is overlap, then it is impossible to draw a
conclusion based on your data. Overlap means the data is not statistically significant. No overlap
means the data is significant, and you can compare the two averages to each other.
4. Students should write a data analysis in paragraph form that follows the guidelines in the rubric.
Students who are struggling should take time to identify the manipulated and responding
variables (MV and RV). They should also identify any sources of error when conducting their
procedure (poor measurement, one partner leaving for the restroom, moving the tape, etc.)
5. Students should each complete an individual rubric when submitting their work. The data
worksheet and two graphs should be stapled to the data analysis.

Example of Worksheet with proper labels:

(This is also the template that would be used for modification).

TYPE YOUR NAME HERE Standing jump before and after exercise
Reg Jump (in.) Reg Jump (cm.) Post-run Jump (in.) Post-run Jump (cm.)
trial 1
trial 2
trial 3
trial 4
trial 5
trial 6
trial 7
trial 8
trial 9
trial 10


Example of Completed Worksheet:

TYPE YOUR NAME HERE Standing jump before and after exercise.
Reg Jump (in.) Reg Jump (cm.) Post-run Jump (in.) Post-run Jump (cm.)
trial 1 48.00 120.00 50.00 125.00
trial 2 48.50 121.25 50.50 126.25
trial 3 49.00 122.50 49.00 122.50
trial 4 48.00 120.00 50.00 125.00
trial 5 49.50 123.75 49.50 123.75
trial 6 48.50 121.25 51.00 127.50
trial 7 48.00 120.00 51.25 128.13
trial 8 49.50 123.75 51.00 127.50
trial 9 49.50 123.75 50.50 126.25
trial 10 49.00 122.50 50.00 125.00

Average 121.88 125.69

Highest 123.75 128.13
Lowest 120.00 122.50
H-L 3.75 5.63
Uncertainty 1.88 2.81

Example of Data Analysis in Paragraph Form

Will a human’s ability to jump from a standing position be improved by exercising beforehand?
This question has been analyzed, researched, and tested in a controlled experiment. Data shows that the
average jump with no exercise beforehand averages 40.3 centimeters. With an uncertainty of 0.7 the best
value range, or range of the average including error, is 39.6-41 centimeters. Ten trials were conducted in
a precise manner and error was minimized throughout each trial by starting at the exact same location for
the jump each time. Next, a different subject spent two minutes exercising by running in place. Then,
when the muscles were warmed, that subject performed the same jump procedure as the subject with no
exercise. The average for the ten trials of this procedure was 41.5 centimeters. There was an uncertainty
of 1.2, so the best value range was from 40.3 to 42.7 centimeters. It is interesting to note that the
uncertainty was 0.5 centimeters greater for the jump with exercise. Perhaps the subject was more tired
towards the end of the trials and had difficulty jumping as far in a consistent way. When the two data
ranges are analyzed, there is an overlap in the average ranges. The average ranges overlap from 40.3-41
centimeters. That means that there is an amount of 0.8 centimeters where the data could fall for both
testing groups. Due to the overlap in averages with the error factored in, we cannot draw a clear
conclusion about the data. Despite taking caution to conduct a controlled experiment, the data is not
Students collect data by completing a standing jump lab. Goal 15g, 16a,
Students follow a Power Point presentation to record and analyze Goal 17a, 15g
data. 1 ,2
Students complete standard set up of an Excel document including Goal 17a
opening, saving as .xls file, titling, renaming, titling columns, re-
adjusting column widths, and formatting cells to 2 decimal points. 1, 2, 3
Students will enter data into a spreadsheet. Goal 17a 1, 2, 3
Students will use formulas to convert data from English to metric Goal 15g 1, 2, 3
Students will use formulas to calculate averages and uncertainties. Goal 17d 1, 2, 3
Students will create line and bar graphs for all trials. Goal 17a 1, 2, 3
Students will summarize in writing the data collected in an Goal 16d

Students will determine the sources of error that limit the accuracy Goal 17d
of an experiment.

Science objectives can be found at http://www.hcpss.org/academics/science. At this site select “Middle

School Skills and Processes”. The HCPSS science objectives are adapted from and aligned with the
Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum for Science 6-8 so we have not added the VSC objectives
NETS Performance Indicators can be found at http://www.iste.org/inhouse/nets/cnets/currstands/cstands-


A computer for each child. If this is not possible, then at least one computer for each pair of
students is needed.
LCD projector in computer lab for teacher to model

Access to Microsoft Excel
Access to Microsoft PowerPoint presentation with directions for the lesson.
Access to Microsoft Excel template if modification is being made for students.

Other Materials:
One yardstick per pair of students
Two small pieces of masking tape per pair
One stopwatch per pair
Pencil and data table to record data per pair
Data Analysis Rubric

Below Standard Meeting Standard Above Standard

Information is fragmented, Information is organized in N/A
bulleted, or otherwise not paragraph form, with the first
in paragraph form. line indented.
Information is presented in Information is consistently N/A
the first person (using I, presented in the third person.
me, my)
Topic sentence is not Topic sentence includes the MV Topic sentence includes the MV
present or is incomplete. and RV. and RV, and also refers the
reader to tables and graphs.
Some data is not Data from all experimental N/A
discussed. groups, as well as control
groups (if available) are
Averages/means not All averages/means included N/A
included for some or all for all groups.
Uncertainties and or/ All uncertainties and ranges are All uncertainties and ranges are
ranges not included. included for all included for all
experimental/control groups. experimental/control groups, and
the reader is referred to error
bars on a graph. (ex: Graph 2
shows the ranges)
Data is not said to be Data has been analyzed based In addition, numbers are used to
either statistically on analyzing ranges for support the claim of s.s. or not
significant or not overlap. Data is said to be s.s. (Example: The acid water is
statistically significant. statistically significant or not shown to be statistically
statistically significant. significant when compared to the
basic water, as the ranges (4-5.5
cm and 6-7.7 cm, do not
The data is not used to The hypothesis is restated and In addition, numbers are used to
support or refute the is either refuted or supported. support or refute the hypothesis.
There are three or more One to two spelling and/or No spelling and/or grammar
spelling and/or grammar grammar errors. errors.
Units are not included for Units are included for all values. Units are included for all values.
some values. In addition, scientific words are
used enhance the quality of this
Excel worksheet and Excel worksheets contain all In addition to meeting the
graphs have missing or trial data, averages, and standard, the bar graph of
incomplete information. uncertainty for all averages has error bars (they
experimental/control groups. can be hand-drawn).
Excel graphs have a title and
labeled axes with units.
The teacher had to redirect Both group members worked Both group members
one or both group well together and needed consistently contributed in a
members to stay on task teacher redirection only once. positive way and needed no
two or more times. redirection from the teacher.
Science Research Project Links!

1. Choosing a topic.
This website was created by Peter Macinnis and copyrighted in 2001. This page is part of the GEM, the
Gateway to Educational Materials, which is sponsored by the US Department of Education. Click on “topic
ideas for projects” and scroll down through the list. Choosing a topic is the most challenging part of
science research! This list will help you to find a topic you are interested in and that has a real-life

2. Still can’t find a topic?

This website is maintained by the Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation and was
copyrighted in 2002-2008. These topics are arranged by category, which is useful because many students
have difficulty deciding which category their project fits into. These topics branch out into engineering, and
some creative ideas such as photography and digital video.

3. I have a topic. Now what?

The most important thing is not to panic! A science research project follows the pattern of the scientific
method, which is really just a way of problem solving. This website will lead you through the steps of the
scientific method, and will help you to keep your project organized. From identifying variables to creating
a presentation of the final results, this website has you covered!
This website is also maintained by the Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation and was
copyrighted in 2002-2008.

4. Finding out more about your topic.

Your favorite library has all of the online resources you need! The Howard County Public Library has a
collection of online resources for you to use. Ask your science teacher or school librarian for an access
code if you do not have your own library card. Library cards are free! Just go with an adult to your local
branch to sign up. This website will be useful during three parts of your project: collecting background
research, explaining your results in a conclusion, and citing other scientists to support your conclusion (by
using other science journals).

5. The Discovery Channel thinks of everything.

Janice VanCleave, who is a science fair expert and author of more than 45 books on science fairs, will
answer any question you have about science fairs! Well, perhaps not any question, but the website will
search a database of over 300 science fair questions. Just type your question into the box and click for
her answer.

6. So you’re going to do a science fair project…

Janice VanCleave and the Discovery Channel will rescue you from the depths of your despair of a
research project. Janice wrote a book, and then made most of it available (free!) for students like you
online. Be sure to click on Ms. McGolrick’s favorite parts: explaining your results, the sample presentation,
and anything with Do’s and Don’ts.
7. Elmer’s glue has another use.
Discovery School has a site called science fair central- sponsored by Elmer’s glue. Here you can find
definitions, rules for projects and fairs, tips, web resources, and ideas for displays. Also, the links and
books section is helpful. http://school.discoveryeducation.com/sciencefaircentral/scifairstudio/links.html

8. Ask an expert.
This site is run by the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. It is affiliated with the
Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering. You can click on any of the links to take you to a variety of
subjects, from space science to oceanography. This is a good resource to find background information
and more facts to support your conclusion. I like the section on pests- you can ask the Orkin man!

9. eNature
This is a great site if you are doing a biology project. It has field guides, local nature resources, plant
information, expert information, and some fun things like puzzles and screensavers. There is a
searchable database of articles on nature topics that could be used in background research or in your
conclusion. I especially like the picture database called “Not sure what you just saw?” It is an interactive
field guide that helps you identify things based on pictures.

10. Links to even more links

Another teacher named Kathy Schrock made a fortune by working with the Discovery Channel! Smart
lady. She has a list of resources that are useful to both teachers and students. There are tons of
searches, databases, and resources to look through. For you sports fans there is even a link on the
science behind hockey. Also, you will see a site called invention dimension, which has information on
inventions and inventors.

11. You could be famous.

Enter the Discovery School Challenge to be America’s Young Scientist.


Megan McGolrick Megan_McGolrick@hcpss.org
Andreia Neto Andreia_Neto@hcpss.org
Beverly Barnes Beverly_Barnes@hcpss.org

Megan originally taught this activity without the PowerPoint. The students used Excel to enter their
individual data, and students learned how to enter data, create formulas, and make graphs by following
oral directions. The assessment rubric was used in the original lesson. We created this learning activity in
response to the frustration she experienced during that lesson. This particular lesson has not been tried in
this final form but knowing the areas of difficulty that needed to be addressed. We feel that this lesson
should be successful for the students and the teachers.

The items in this learning activity came from teacher prior knowledge.

Used with permission of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) National Educational
Technology Standards (NETS) Project (http://www.iste.org or http://cnets.iste.org) Contact: Lajeane
Thomas, Louisiana Tech University, P.O. Box 3161, Ruston, LA 71272; Voice: 318 257-3923 Email: