MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Determining School Population Using Multiple Student Driven Methods

Determining School Population Using Multiple Student Driven Methods

Al Wachutka, St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park, MN
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This activity is best used as an introduction to methods used to determine the population of species in an ecosystem. Students will create a logical method to estimate the number of students in their building, collect data, and calculate an estimated student population.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to develop sound methodology to collecting reliable data. Students will also analyze their data and develop a mathematical model to determine the number of students in their school building. In addition, students will determine similarities and differences to data collection and analysis in a natural population.

Context for Use

This activity would best be used as an introduction to population dynamics and methods used to determine a species population. The intended audience for this lesson is high school environmental science students. It would also be appropriate for high school biology. It is recommended that groups of 2-4 should be established for planning and data acquisition.
Students will be given 10-20 minutes to establish a method of sampling in order to estimate the student population of the school. A group procedure, including mathematical formulas, should be written up and approved before data is taken.

Subject: Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Ecology
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity should follow a brief introduction on the purpose of studying populations and the need to have valid data for decision-making.
Students will be divided into groups of 2 or 3. Each group will be given the task of determining the student population in the building. Students will develop their own method to arrive at a valid population for the school. Students may choose to take samplings during lunch, during passing time, or during class sessions. Perhaps some may try to conduct a census of some kind. All methods should be encouraged. Students should state, in writing, the complete process and why they feel their process will result in valid data.
When completed, their mathematical model should speak for itself. Each group will need to identify inconsistencies or flaws in their original logic and/or process. This information should be shared with classroom peers. Additionally, their peers should review each model for validity.

Teaching Notes and Tips


Assessment for this activity is the students' own evaluation of their process and the relevancy of their data. Also, their peers will analyze the work of the group. Both the data and the process will be reviewed by their peers.


This unit will support these two standards. This activity is an introduction to a unit addressing species interactions and population dynamics
9-12,IV.C.3 Interdependence of Life
9-12,IV.C.4 Interdependence of Life

References and Resources