DataGems and creative learning reflection!

Hello! My name is Christy, a first-year undergrad at MIT, and over the past few months I’ve been working with Ada on creating the DataGems activity.

I wanted to join the PLIX project to get more involved in education and, more specifically, creative learning. Teaching in engaging and fun ways, and ways that matter personally to people, is important to me and I wanted to build my creativity by helping Ada with a new data activity.

I started first by testing out the Paper Circuits and (In)visible Self activities to see what creative learning activity looks like, and to practice facilitating the activity with friends. I liked how the instructions and activity examples were simple – nothing too complicated – and because of this, I was able to come up with my own ideas (low floor, high ceiling!) Facilitating felt a bit awkward, since it was my first time (and maybe it being with my friends also made it feel strange), but it was good practice and fun.

The goal for our revamped data activity was to have people think about what was meaningful to them and have them collect data on it. For example, their habits, their friends and family, their environment, etc. We took a lot of inspiration from the Dear Data book and their prompts. The big questions we wanted people to think about were, “What are you collecting data on?” “Why are you collecting it this way?” and “What does this mean to you?”

When it got to brainstorming data activities, it was a bit hard at first, but then I thought about a data bracelet with beads and charms that can represent what you’re tracking.


I found a knotting pattern online (left) where the beads could slide over and wouldn’t lose their place, so the bracelet could be a counter. This helped track the data better than beads normally on a pipe cleaner (right), but could be difficult for kids doing the activity. So instead, we thought of adding something to be clipped in between the beads which would keep track of data.

With safety bracelets and stitch counters, we made other trackers. On the left, I made a bracelet where each charm signified each of my family members, and the beads were how often I called them this week (the stitch counter would be moved over the beads). On the right, Ada made a water tracker to keep track of how much water she drank. Similar to the Paper Circuits activity, I felt myself getting lots of ideas of things I could track, such as how often I went outside that week and how my friend was doing last time I checked in with them.

On the left, bracelet tracking how my friend was doing last time I checked in with them. On the right, bracelets Ada made to track how often she hung out with her friends that month.

I’ve been using the bracelet tracker to keep better in touch with my family during college, and made me make more time for them since I realized how long it’s been since I last talked to them.

I’ve learned a lot from DataGems with Ada about creative learning through making the activity and playtesting it. The most obvious part is not everything goes to plan, and there were parts we originally planned for (like the stitch counters) that worked less well when we tested it than we thought (or, we thought it might be difficult or finicky for the younger students doing our activity). Thinking more creatively was something I struggled with, but it was really cool and rewarding coming up with the activity and examples for people to explore data collection and representation in a creative way. I also learned from the low floor, high ceiling concept, where there are simple guiding examples or questions, so people have the freedom to creatively think of their own ideas or expand upon the examples. I think this was really helpful in making me more personally involved and being able to create my own examples (for the DataGems activity and other activities I tested) that mattered to me.