Teacher institute empowers teachers to bring data science to the classroom

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In preparation for teaching data science in their own classrooms, teachers participating in Argonne’s Data Science Institute for High School Teachers had the opportunity to guide students through coding with Jupyter Notebooks. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

Workshop connects high school teachers with data science so they can apply new approaches to their lesson plans.

At one of the many science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational programs run by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory over the summer, attendees tackled a variety of data exercises, including investigating London’s 19th century cholera crisis. Just as doctors at the time collected and analyzed data to determine the source of the epidemic, participants discovered the problem-solving potential of data science.

But unlike Argonne’s other STEM education programs, the attendees at this data workshop were not students but Chicago Public Schools high school teachers. The teachers’ typical subjects ranged from computer science to math to physics, but they all wanted to find ways to bring data science to their classrooms.

The three-week-long Data Science Institute for High School Teachers brought eight teachers together with Argonne staff members at Hyde Park Academy High School in Chicago. Over the course of three weeks, the teachers learned about computer science, experimented hands-on with coding tools and practiced teaching data science to youth.

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At the end of the teacher institute’s second week, students presented data findings to prove that cholera is water-borne. The students’ success demonstrated the teachers’ own success in applying data science to real-world problems that they can explore in the classroom. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

“Working with teachers allows us to have an exponential impact on communities,” said institute lead and Argonne associate Miranda Kerr. ​“By introducing teachers to data science — an essential skill for students — and helping them bring the concepts to their classrooms, we have the potential to introduce more than 800 students to data science. If these teachers continue to spark students’ curiosity in data science in subsequent years, there’s a huge potential for a ripple effect of increased STEM learning.”

“Making meaning from data has always been an important part of all STEM courses, so it can be easily integrated into the curriculum,” said Deysi Emeterio, who is preparing to teach AP and honors physics at Whitney Young High School. ​“Data science is a growing field widely used in various industries, including marketing, healthcare, finance, banking, policy work and more. As a teacher, I want to help my students develop the knowledge and the set of skills that opens opportunities for them in their future careers.”

The teacher institute’s data science activities would not have been possible without the support of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science user facility. In the past, the ALCF has collaborated with educational programs like Coding for Science Camp and Big Data Camp, and key elements from those camps, such as case studies, informed the teacher institute’s design. Furthermore, the ALCF provided the server infrastructure for the Jupyter Notebooks, which offer new, interactive ways to learn and explore data science and coding in Python.

“The ALCF has been instrumental in providing the computing infrastructure that gives teachers and their students access to the computing resources necessary for data science,” said John Domyancich, Argonne’s STEM education learning manager. ​“Our years-long partnership supporting young peoples’ exploration of computing in science continues to blossom and reach more students."

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As part of their tour at the lab, teachers watched as a scientist demonstrated a rainfall sensor used in the Community Research on Climate and Urban Science program. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

“Enabling teachers to introduce data science into the high school classroom is tremendous,” said Michael Papka, professor of computer science at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the director of the ALCF. ​“I’m so happy that ALCF has been part of this journey; while we have worked with hundreds of students, by engaging with teachers, we will enable thousands. Allowing teachers to bring data science knowledge to all their future classes will give the students a tremendous head start.”

Now that the three weeks are over, teachers will continue to develop data science curricula for their high school classrooms. All the while, they will receive ongoing support from Argonne.

“I plan to take the activities and skills we were introduced to at the institute, and implement them into my AP computer science classes,” said Emmanuel Medina, a computer science teacher at Curie Metropolitan High School. ​“With minor modifications, these lessons will help students develop their analytical skills, build critical thinking skills, and engage their knowledge with real world events and issues.”

This work was supported in part by the DOE’s, Office of Science, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) through the Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) Initiative. The work also used the ALCF, supported by DOE’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR).


The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility provides supercomputing capabilities to the scientific and engineering community to advance fundamental discovery and understanding in a broad range of disciplines. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, the ALCF is one of two DOE Leadership Computing Facilities in the nation dedicated to open science.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science