Dana Hall offers a new Data Science course

Data Science is a new interdisciplinary course offered at Dana Hall that combines social studies, statistics, and computer science. Mr. Brian Cook, Dr. Alla Baranovsky, and Ms. Cloricia (Pat) Townsend, respectively, specialize in the different parts of Data Science and teach the class together. Students learn to analyze large data sets and understand the story behind the data.

According to Dr. Baranovsky, “We wanted to offer a course that would be interdisciplinary in nature. We wanted a course that merged social sciences where data is very important to examine if we wanted to answer big questions that are asked in the discipline. With mathematical background which is provided by statistics. With computer science literacy, which allows you to then process larger data sets.” She also noted that students with a data science background in high school were also found to be more likely to succeed in college.

According to Dana Hall’s Curriculum Handbook 23-24, “We offer Data Science at Dana Hall for the purposes of raising informed, curious, and design-minded citizens of the contemporary world, as well as empirical scholars able to answer questions with evidence and visually communicate their findings.”

Unlike other courses where the final project takes place at the end of the school year, Data Science’s final project starts on the first day of class, where students choose a broad topic of interest and then go more into detail after class discussions. As students explore deeper into their topic they will conduct data analysis until they produce a “fully fleshed out [Shiny] webpage,” said Dr. B. Students can use Shiny to build webpages using R, which is the type of coding language used in the Data Science course.

Summer Wu’ 26 said, “I enjoy the open discussions, how everyone has a lot of opportunities to speak, and the different forms of the class.”

While Data Science is being taught by three teachers this year, future classes will only be taught by one teacher due to the high cost of having three teachers teaching together.

The Data Science course is made possible by the EE Ford Grant that granted $75,000 to Dana Hall. Dana Hall then matched up to the grant, fundraising another $75,000. This $150,000 is used to hire an additional teacher to teach the courses that the three Data Science teachers are released from, buy Macbooks for students to conduct data analysis, and pay for Mr. Cook, Dr. B, and Mrs. Townsend to attend conferences.

As a part of the grant application, Dana Hall will be sharing the course curriculum with other schools after trial runs at Dana are successful. “This course is really novel. It’s not just novel for Dana Hall, it’s also novel for other independent schools and public schools. And independent schools are a little bit more flexible about our curriculum. We can pioneer stuff, we can do the trail runs, we can see if this works before the public schools are able to implement this,” said Dr. B.

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