Urban Ecosystems

When people think of ecology, they usually imagine studies out in the country. The next thing they think of is studies involving the relationship of plants and animals to one another. They also imagine studies that show how organisms relate to the physical environment -- air, water, and soil. People and cities usually don't come to mind when ecology is mentioned.

Day 4: Candyland Elementary School Land Cover


Aerial photographs can aid in determining land use types. Land cover types can be measured by using a grid overlay to aid in determining percent coverage. Students will learn how transition from gaining information from a 3-dimensional model to gaining information from an overhead 2-dimensional view.

Lesson Overview

Students will determine the percentage of land use types from “aerial photographs” of personally designed models.

1 class period

(Students work in pairs)

  • “Aerial photograph” of students’ model
  • Grid transparency
  • Clear tape
  • Pencil and paper
  • Calculator
  • Transparency marker
  1. Using a digital camera, take an overhead photo of each model.  On the computer, crop each photograph to fit an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper. Print the photos
    using a color printer.
  2. Students receive photos of their models and other materials. The following procedure should be modeled on the overhead: Using tape, overlay the grid transparency on the photo. For each square, the students determine the color that covers the majority of the square. A tally is kept to keep track of the number of each color of square. On the transparency sheet, squares should be marked with an “X” to show that they have been tallied.
  3. Students add up the total number of squares counted. To determine the percentage of each land use type, divide each type (ex: number of yellow squares) by the total number of squares.
  4. Students look to see which cover types accounted for the greatest and least percentage of their models, and compare with classmates. Tell them that their next task will be to do this again, but from a real aerial photograph taken of their school. What do they think will be different in the process? What will be the same?
Lesson Resources
NYS Standards
MST 1 - Mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design
MST 3- Mathematics in real-world settings
MST 6- Interconnectedness of mathematics, science, and technology (modeling, systems, scale, change, equilibrium, optimization)
Benchmarks for Science Literacy
1B Scientific Inquiry
2A Patterns and Relationships
9B Symbolic Representation
11B Models
11D Scale
12B Computation and Estimation

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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