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Lesson Ideas

Data Graphing Activity for 4th-7th Graders

Data-centered activities are most meaningful and interesting for students when they use real-world data. This dataset comes from an original research paper published in the academic journal Current Biology in 2022. Scientists observed gillnet fishers in Baja California Sur, Mexico, who agreed to use an experimental, lighted gillnet that they hoped would help reduce the negative impacts of fishing on other ocean animals.

In spite of the real-life source, this graphing activity is suitably simple for elementary school and middle school students, Grades 4-7. (It can be modified for older students too.) Use our complete lesson plan, summarized below, to guide students through interpreting the original data table and creating their own graph of the results.

Fishing Techniques Dataset

Commercial fishers off the coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico, work to catch two main types of fish: halibut and large grouper. They use gillnets, a type of net that is easy to use but not selective. This means that fishers often catch ocean animals that they don’t intend to catch and cannot sell, like sharks, squid, and turtles. We call this bycatch – and most of the time these animals are thrown back into the sea, dead or injured.

Researchers from Mexico and the United States partnered with these commercial fishermen to build and experiment with a new type of illuminated net that they hoped would reduce bycatch without impacting the fishers’ ability to do their job efficiently.

Lesson Plan

Find the student worksheet, teacher’s key, and data table in the public folder (Google Drive). To implement this lesson you will also need copies of the adapted article and graph paper.

  • Open the activity by having students read the Abstract, Introduction, and Methods sections of the adapted article. You may wish to hide the Results section for later.
  • Help students look at the data table from the original research article and identify the information they will need to be able to graph the data. Sample prompts in the lesson plan ask students to determine what the four main bycatch groups are and what kind of graph would best illustrate the data.
  • Help students graph the mean biomass caught in control and illuminated nets for the four most common groups of bycatch. Students should use graph paper to complete this activity.
  • Discuss the students’ results using the prompts in the lesson plan, exploring both the immediate results and the potential implications of the results on the fishing economy.
  • Have students read the Results section of the adapted article.
  • Help students compare their graphs to the original researchers’ findings, which are illustrated in Figure 2, using the prompts in the lesson plan. An answer key or sample graph is provided in the Google Drive folder for this activity, in the Google Sheet called “Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Comparing Fishing Techniques – Graph – Part II, #2.”


Other resources related to this article, including other lesson plans, can be found on the article’s page here at Science Journal for Kids.

That’s Not All!

  • Check out other types of lessons, labs, and activities for your students in the “Lesson plan ideas” section on each article page.
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