Speyer Students Win Hudson Data Jam Middle School Level 2 Vision Project

Whether tuning into CNN or the local NYC stations, we are all following the news of Hurricane Florence, sending thoughts to those affected by this massive storm. Watching the footage, many of us are thinking about Superstorm Sandy, which affected our area six years ago, and the reports of this latest hurricane are all the more vivid for Speyer students Jonathan M., Sasha G., and Chris O. Last year, they used their personal experiences from Hurricane Sandy in their entry for the Hudson Data Jam, sponsored by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a competition that promotes data literacy and science engagement while encouraging creativity. Titled Hurricane Sandy: What Happened and When, their project tied as the winner for the Middle School Level 2 Vision Project…and, as you can see from the photos from Jonathan’s home and neighborhood post-Sandy, this winning project was quite personal.  

 In 2012, Jonathan weathered Hurricane Sandy in a house flooded with storm surge, and Sasha's building lost power.  Their research was an attempt to understand what happened. How did the high tide and storm surge come together to produce such tremendous levels of water?  Understanding the tide required an understanding of how the earth, sun, and moon are positioned, as they studied in class.  Understanding how the storm surge layered on top of the already high tide was the next step. Then, perhaps, hardest of all emotionally, was Jonathan returning to his memories of that stressful night, with a new understanding of what happened.  He included photos that his father took and discovered that water levels in his home could have been eight inches higher than the 55 inches of water in his home, if the storm had struck at the morning high.  If the moon was at its closest point in orbit around the earth, 20 more inches of water would have been added to Jonathan's home.  Conversely, if the storm struck six hours earlier or later, at low tide, the water in his home would be 42 inches lower.  

All of the students in last year’s 7B class entered the Hudson Data Jam. Students chose data sets rooted in the Hudson Valley, including such topics as fish, stream health, water quality, glass eels, Superstorm Sandy, dissolved oxygen, and more. They explored the data’s meaning through graphing, scientific reasoning, and technical writing and then told the story of their data through the creative medium of the students' choosing. Creative projects included videos, stories, a play, a game, and a slide presentation.

This project was exciting for all of the teams. Students relished the opportunity to interpret the real world, connecting it with their experience on Pier I during their field trip for A Day in the Life of the Hudson River. The competition allowed them to tell the stories of their data, which was fun and interesting experience; however, it was, at times, really quite challenging. 

While being able to tell the story of one's data any way one would like sounds fun, pulling it off, and bringing it together into an on-time completed package can be difficult! Students learned it’s very humbling to not understand what a data set might mean, and discovered that collaborating as a team and maintaining an organized structure for the project can be hard (as it is for all of us!). Pushing through those tough times was a key element to each team’s individual success, and all of the teams completed their tasks, coming away with so much during the process. This competition allows everyone who completes the challenge to win — all of our students won new analysis and teamwork skills, newfound confidence, and, of course, new science knowledge. 

As judging took place after last year's school year ended, we are thrilled to now congratulate all of our students! Click here to read all of their entries!