Micro:bits at the ready: Playground survey brings data science to schools across the UK

Hear how ONS has joined BBC micro:bit – the next gen campaign to help UK primary schools discover more about their playgrounds whilst taking part in a nationwide survey.

In today’s digital society data is everywhere, so understanding its potential to help us learn more about the world around us has never been more important.

And it’s not just the statisticians at ONS that need this understanding. From helping us to manage our personal finances to informing choices like where we live, data touches all of our lives, so we can all benefit from the skills that allow us to use and interpret them. That’s why at ONS we’re also invested in data education, looking at new ways to improve data literacy and present statistics in a way that is clear, unambiguous, and accessible to all.

The new BBC micro:bit playground survey, which launched this week, is a wonderful way for children to learn these skills at an early age, getting to grips with data collection and analysis in a way that is relevant to their everyday lives, in a familiar and fun setting.

If children become data-literate now, they will be well prepared to navigate and take advantage of the huge amounts of data that will no doubt play an important role in their adult lives.

Playground data

The playground survey will give primary school children hands-on experience, from planning the collection of data, to recording and analysing it, and then thinking about how to improve it.

They will do this through a series of seven fun, cross-curricular activities. Each activity is a mixture of sessions including classroom-based planning, optional coding, playground fieldwork sessions and whole-class data analysis. There is also an introduction to AI and an opportunity for children to train their own machine learning model.

All the activities involve BBC micro:bits: pocket-sized, multi-use computers that were offered to primary schools across the UK as part of the wider BBC micro:bit – the next gen campaign.

The children will look at everything from the size of their playground to the biodiversity it supports, and how pupils spend their playtimes.

 Once the data are gathered, teachers have the chance to upload them for their class so they can be shared with ONS for analysis by our data scientists. We will be looking at the data to find out more about our playgrounds across the UK and comparing it with other data sources.

As an example, we’ll look at how temperature data collected through the BBC micro:bit playground survey compares with published weather data from the Met Office. By publishing our analysis, we hope to help participants learn more about data collection and how to be intelligent users of data – a skill they will find invaluable in the future.

We’re very excited to be part of this project and are looking forward to receiving the children’s data and learning more about the many playgrounds of the UK. This will be a first for us, as well as an exciting project of discovery for the children.

Visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/microbit/playground-survey/zrnqp9q to find out more.

Mary Gregory - Deputy Director at ONS's Data Science Campus

Mary Gregory – Deputy Director at ONS’s Data Science Campus