Category Archives: #Inquiry

GoogleTrends: Exploring Patterns in Search Data [DBQs & Inquiry]


GoogleTrends allows you to plot the popularity of search terms (since 2004), by geographical region or worldwide. This could be a great way to launch inquiry on a topic in science that has seasonal trends or patterns, and could be used to set up simple DBQ practice. It is limited in the linear presentation of data, and the data are search frequencies rather than scientific data, but as the patterns raise questions, they could be followed-up with searches for more valid sources and explanations.

In the example below, Frank Swain (@SciencePunk) had put in the search term “morning after pill” for the UK and found a peak every Sunday. An interesting pattern that could set up some discussion in class based on reproduction, behaviour, risk management, ethics, hormonal control or more.

“Morning After Pill” search term on GoogleTrends

This could lead to a quick (though basic) way to set up some simple data-based questions or stimulus for exploration. Here is a plot for the search term “vaccine”. Think of the questions it might raise in discussion.

GoogleTrend Worldwide since 2004: “Vaccine” What DBQ’s could you ask?


What questions does it raise and how would it lead to further exploration? Here are some examples:

  • Why does it peak each October?
  • Why was traffic so high in 2009-10?
  • What do you predict for the coming year?

This leads into discussion of sources of information, accessing databases and the reasons for vaccines.

One neat feature is that you can add other search terms to the graph in the same time period, though it will normalise the data. Another is the ‘headlines’ feature that shows some popular news headlines near peaks. Yet another is the ‘predict’ feature that will model the coming year based on trends and patterns. “Predict” is often asked in DBQ’s, so this might make for some good questions. Here’s what happens when we add “flu vaccine”, headlines and the forecast:

GoogleTrends: “Vaccine” and “Flu vaccine”, worldwide, 2004-present.

From this exploration, you could move onto looking at flu trends, and GoogleTrends has special sections for tracking flu and dengue fever:


This next one is a neat demonstration of what happens when you change the scale of the y-axis. In this case, the second dataset is added, compared to the original and the original becomes much less noticeable as a result. How many times do we tell our students to set appropriate scales on the axes and make use of the space to be able to see trends and patterns?

For another bit of fun, here’s one on “Genome”:



  • A quick, easy launching pad for inquiry
  • Develop simple DBQs easily
  • Does need to be supported by inquiry into more valid sources for the topic
  • Each graph is ‘normalised’ which could lead into useful discussion of the effect of scales on data presentation


The Sun’s Energy & Temperature Misconceptions

Here’s Derek Veritasium at it again, with two neat little videos. The first explores where the Sun gets its energy and the other shows a cool little demo regarding heat transfer. Enjoy!

15 year-old develops effective, cheap test for pancreatic cancer [TED Audition]

Wow. Here’s Jack Andraka’s TED Audition for a talk on his work developing a carbon nanotube and antibody-based test for pancreatic cancer.

Jack won the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award ($75,000) at the Intel International* Science and Engineering Fair for the same work:

Read more about him, his work and the work he built it on here on

*Yup – you can have a go too.

Boson the Fourth of July

Yesterday was a big day for science, and luckily the internet was on hand to give us a live stream of reliable information and the CERN press conference (which is more than CNN could manage).

Why is it important? Here are some really useful Higgs links: 


This whole exercise is a great example of internationalism in science and is probably the world’s biggest group 4 project. It showcases the scientific method perfectly, as Adam Rutherford tweeted:

After the PR disaster of the EU’s hopelessly patronising Science: It’s a Girl Thing campaign, it was great to see a real inspiration to girls and boys take the stage – Fabiola Gianotti.

Read the rest of this entry

Last Lesson Shenanigans: Cork Cannons

Here’s a bit of fun for the last lesson of the year, with a sensible Chemistry or Physics class. The aim is to use the gas produced in the reaction between baking soda and dilute HCl (or vinegar) to propel a cork over a wall and into a beaker. Lots of fun with testing methods, hypothesising and problem solving.

Obvious safety issues: use low concentrations, keep washing hands and/or use gloves and keep goggles on at all times. Students must be sure to aim away from the body and each other.

Cork Cannons

Learning Science by Doing Science | Frank Noschese at TEDxNYED

This is the way we’ve been going in Physics class, and here is why:

Mole & Stoichiometry Presentation

For my Grade 9 Intro Chemistry class, as we end the year. Despite the word ‘stoichiometry’ being a bit scary for some students, it can be a fun unit – a lot of logic problems! It leads to lots of questioning, whiteboarding and problem-solving. the final lab, “Investigating a factor which affects the yield of a reaction*” allows for quite a diversity of approaches and a lot of differentiation in the data processing.

As one student said, “I have to think too much in Chem class!

Thanks to Barbara Lucas for all the support this year.

*chosen from a shortlist


Inspired for 2012 by these Young Scientists!

Set aside 17 minutes to listen to Lauren Hodge, Naomi Shah and Shree Bose give their TED Talk on their experiences as winners of the 2011 Google Global Science Fair. These three young scientists are each winners of their age groups (13-14, 15-16 and 17-18 respectively), with Shree winning the grand prize of a $50,000 scholarship and a trip to the Galapagos and an internship at CERN! Wow.

Of course Naomi and Lauren also picked up some great prizes and they all got the opportunity to present at TEDx Women:

If you have a great scientific question burning in your mind, why not enter this year’s competition? Head on over to the Google Science Fair 2012 website for all the information you could need. Here’s a quick video below.

Just remember to get it all in by April 1st!

Thanks to Julie Lemley for the link.

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