Unit 3: Sensory Data Collection
In this unit, students will develop protocols for the collection of sensory data (scents and/or sounds), plan and execute the field collection of sensory data using developed protocols, analyze collected data, and create a map that communicates findings and impacts on the local population.
The advantage of using sensory data is that students are equipped with the analytical equipment (ears and nose) and are familiar with its use. However, students may not have taken the time to consider the variety of perceptions that occur within a group of people who are sharing a sensory experience and the impact that variation can have when collecting and analyzing data and subsequently communicating the results.
In this unit, as in the entire module, sensory data is considered in two contexts: First, as an indicator of environmental conditions, and, in some instances, environmental disruption. Second, as a proxy for data that is not as easily collected or as readily analyzed such as air or water samples. One of the challenges of developing these protocols will be discerning individual components from a complex system and developing an approach for systematically recording these data. This, though, gives students important exposure to the challenges of understanding and characterizing today's societal problems, which tend to include many interrelated dynamic causes.
- Create a sensory data collection protocol that facilitates consistent collection of sensory data.
- Collect and record sensory data as part of an environmental study.
Context for Use
This unit is designed for a college course of any level. Methods classes in the social and natural sciences may find these activities useful in helping students systematically think about data collection. Introductory science courses may use these activities to help students understand how scientists conduct research. Environmental justice and environmental studies courses may use these activities to broaden student understanding of environmental data.
Students are often provided with data to analyze but are not involved in the collection of the data or provided with the protocols under which it was collected, or they collect data following an already established protocol. This unit guides students through the process of developing protocols for the collection of data, using the developed protocols to collect and record data on a map, assessing the environmental impact of land use on a community, and communicating their findings to a broad audience.
Prior to beginning the unit, students should:
- be familiar with the difference between qualitative and quantitative data (Unit 1 of this module)
- be familiar with objective and subjective observations (Unit 1 and Unit 2 of this module)
- be familiar with collecting and recording data (Unit 2 of this module)
After the completing the unit, students will use the collected data to create a map (or maps) characterizing the study area. (Unit 5 of this module.)
Description and Teaching Materials
Students will need writing materials and their natural senses (nose and ears). It is possible that some students may have sensory limitations; such limitations should be incorporated into the discussion and the development of protocols.
Optional: some students may choose to download a noise monitoring app on their smart phones; however, students should not be allowed to rely or read from such an app as their sole source of data.
This unit is to be conducted by groups and includes fieldwork. Each group should have four to six students and may be assigned by the instructor or self-selected by the students. It is important that the students within the group are comfortable with each other and are able to coordinate their schedules in order to complete the fieldwork within a short (one-week) time period.
Optional previous activity: Students may be asked to maintain a log of immediate sensory experiences recorded once each hour for any ten-hour period and analyze that log with their peers. (See Unit 2: Sensory Log associated with this module.)
This Unit is in two parts:
The pages for those two parts have detailed descriptions, notes and tips, assessment, and references and resources.
See Parts 1 and 2 for detailed descriptions, notes and tips, assessment, and references and resources.