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Biodiversity Count

Suzanne Savanick, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, ssavanic@carleton.edu
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this class exercise, students count the number of species they can find in a five minute block of time in both an urban lawn and natural, remnant forest area. The students are introduced to the concept of low and high biodiversity areas and engage in a discussion about biodiversity loss.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Students will begin to recognize low and high biodiversity areas and understand what affects biodiversity loss.

Context for Use

  • This was the students first introduction to the concept of biodiversity. Many students had no or little background in this environmental studies and only basic science education in high school.
  • This was taught to advanced high school students in a international studies program. The course was part of an international environmental studies elective course.
  • This exercize worked well in a two hour class block.
  • We walked outside of our building for the first biodiversity count. We walked down the road 10 minutes to a park with a remnant forest. It was an unmanaged forest and river area with walking paths.
  • This type of activity requires an area with low biodiversity and higher biodiversity.
  • We used the activity as the beginning of a discussion of biodiversity loss worldwide.

Teaching Materials

No special materials are needed for this activity.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. Have students break into groups of 3 to 4 people.
  2. Move students outside to an urbanized area, but one with some green space, such as trees or grass. Have students count the number of species that they can find in a five minute block.
  3. Reassemble large group. Have student groups tell the group the number of species counted.
  4. Move to a naturalized area. (In this class, we moved to a "natural" city park within walking distance from campus).
  5. Have students repeat the count.
  6. In our class, we found that the students were overwhelmed by the number of species in the natural park.
  7. We used this as a teachable moment to discuss how the whole area used to look like the park before development; this type of biodiversity loss is happening worldwide.


Have students write a one page reflection on biodiversity.

References and Resources

The biodiversity section of Action Bioscience includes information about biodiverity and educator's resources (including power point presentations, overheads, and worksheets).

The The Biodiversity Project has introductory information about biodiversity that was set up for the media and a good list of resources.


Biology:Diversity, Ecology:Metabolism

Resource Type

Activities:Field Activity:Field trip , Activities:Classroom Activity:Short Activity, Activities:Classroom Activity

Special Interest

Field-Based Teaching and Learning, Local Issue:Campus-Based

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Biosphere:Diversity, Ecology, Biosphere


Ecology, Human Dimensions/Resources, Biosphere:Diversity, Ecology:Habitats, Habitats:Terrestrial


Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience