Why Use Local Data?

In NGSS Appendix D: All Standards, All Students, building community connections was recognized as an effective strategy for science education. 

​​Strategies that involve the community underscore the importance of connecting the school science curriculum to the students' lives and the community in which they live. It is through these connections that students who have traditionally been alienated from science recognize science as relevant to their lives and future, deepen their understanding of science concepts, develop agency in science, and consider careers in science.


Tuva enables students to make connections between the science classroom and students' communities through the use of local data.

Local data can be used as a hook to engage and motivate students to explore a concept; to build their data literacy and process of science skills; to help them explore issues that matter to their community; to understand how their existence fits into a wider context or system; to explore how their location compares to another in relation to local phenomena; and in numerous other ways. But what does research say about why we should focus on local data?

Research indicates that students learn more overall, in more depth, and retain their learning longer when they have ownership of their learning (National Research Council, 2012). The quickest way to help students develop that ownership is to have them collect the data themselves. This kind of hands-on work teaches them the ins and outs of the data, especially when the work involves identifying the question and answering it using the data. You can use local data in your teaching to help students feel connected to, empowered by, and engaged in the data they have collected themselves.

While local data can be collected by students, numerous professionals and citizen scientists in your area are also collecting data related to local issues, phenomena, and processes. Research indicates that students are more motivated to learn and engage in their learning when they investigate data that relates to their lives (Achieve, "Using Phenomena," 2016). What better way to connect your content to your students' lives than to use local data in your classroom?

In summary, there are multiple reasons to use local data in your teaching. It makes the content relevant; connects students to their own location while learning; and builds their data literacy while following successful pedagogical practices.


Three-dimensional teaching with NGSS is grounded in phenomena, ideally in phenomena that students can observe and engage in. We know that students are more interested and engaged in their learning when it is centered around topics that relate to their lives. Therefore, using local examples of phenomena is a natural way to integrate phenomena-based instruction in ways that maximize students’ engagement in their learning.
There are different ways to integrate local examples into your instruction. For example, you can use local stories to provide context for an issue as you teach. Another option, one that NGSS heavily encourages, is to dive into local data to build a conceptual understanding of the phenomena. Furthermore, using local data can provide a uniquely relevant context to integrate the Crosscutting Concept of Scale, Proportion, & Quantity into your instruction. Each time students look at local data or compare it to data from a broader region, they will be exploring the concept of scale.



  1. Achieve, Inc. "Using Phenomena in NGSS-Designed Lessons and Units." 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Using%20Phenomena%20in%20NGSS.pdf
  2. NGSS Lead States. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013.
  3. National Research Council. A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012. https://doi.org/10.17226/13165
Was this article helpful?
0 out of 0 found this helpful