Schoolyard Ecology

Thinking about the flow of matter and energy with students is one of the key ways of exploring ecosystems. In these lessons, students construct their own understanding of ecosystems through investigations in their schoolyard, developing ideas about ecological processes and functions.

Classroom Map

2 class periods

Through field checking a map or photo scientists can come up with a more accurate map of the area studied which reflects change over time. Collaborative efforts can lead to increased understanding of the concepts.



         Part A

  1. Explain to the students that they will combine the information on all of their maps to create a class map. In this process they will have small group discussions to come up with a classification system for the ground cover of their schoolyard.
  2. Break the students into groups to discuss the homework assignment and have them explain to each other why they made their map the way they did. Have that group come up with a classification system for their section that they will present to the entire class for the master map to be created by the entire class.
  3. Each group will then do a short presentation explaining what they think their section of the class map should look like and explain why think it should look that way.

    Part B
  4. Review with the students the map classification system from the previous class period.
  5. Have each group draw their section of the school site cover map onto a transparency using the same size grid that determined the quadrant they would study. Have them color their section in as closely as possible to what is on their field checked group map.
  6. After all groups add their data to the master transparency, project that image onto butcher paper and have the students trace and color the map. Be sure that they also create a key that shows what each color means.
  7. While one group add their data to the master map the other groups can use the transparent grid to establish the percent of each land cover type on their section. To do this,have them overlay the transparent grid onto their sections studied.
  8. Next, have them count the number of squares on their section that are colored in each color. If a square has more than one color in it have them decide which color occupies more of the square and count it as that color. The students should do this for every color they have on their map section.
  9. Once all squares are counted in each category add all of the squares counted so you will have the total number of squares counted for each map section.
  10. After all groups have added their section to the master map and counted all the squares on their map sections, ask them their numbers for each category, write them on the board or overhead, and add those number together. For example, if one group had 54 red squares and another group had 27, you would add the red squares together to get 81 red squares counted. Then add all the squares counted regardless of color. So if one group counted 54 red, 31 blue, and 99 yellow they would add up to 180. That number would be added to all the other groups’ number to get a class total.
  11. It’s time to calculate the percentage of each land cover type on the school site. Take the total number of squares counted for each color and divide them by the total number of squares counted for all colors. Each number will represent the percentage of land covered by that cover type. This number can be added to the map at the front of the class.

    Notes for 1st-2nd graders: This activity will need to be modified so that it doesn’t have a homework assignment. For this age group the homework assignment can be done in their small groups. They can then report their section of the schoolyard back to the class.


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