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 5: Mapping a Daily Path Through the Schoolyard


Record detailed relevant notes Record which areas of schoolyard are utilized by students in a given day Analyze whole class data Make a map that illustrates their daily path

Lesson Overview

Students record their travels in one school day to help them trace a path within the building and on the schoolyard.

2 class periods
classroom and schoolyard

For each student:

  • Log sheet
  • Map of schoolyard
  • Student tally sheet
  • Class recording sheet
  • Pencils
  1. First thing in the morning, tell students they will be keeping track of their movement within the school building and on the schoolyard. They will be using a log to help them draw their path on a map of the schoolyard. Show them the given example. Give each student a copy of the log sheet. Tell them you will be stopping them 6 times (grades 3-6) today to record where they went in the school building and in the yard. It may be helpful for students to share what they have written after each log entry to provide peer support to other classmates.
  2. At the end of the day or the following day provide students with a copy of a map of the school yard with the land cover areas indicated. To begin ask them to place an “X” where they entered the school grounds if they walked onto the schoolyard or to place an “X” where they exited the vehicle that brought them to school. Ask students to trace their path to the classroom. Next, invite students to read their first log entry and trace their path to that location on the map. If students seem to understand the process ask them to finish independently. If students seem unclear about the task, stop after each log entry and invite students to share their maps.
  3. After students have finished this mapping exercise, distribute individual tally sheets. Invite them to place a tally mark under a land cover area each time their path crosses it. For example, if their path crosses grass to reach blacktop, they need to place a tally under grass and a tally under blacktop. If they then walk over grass to get to the playground, place another tally under grass and one under playground.
  4. Invite students to share their data as a class. Record student data on the class data recording sheet. You may wish to copy this onto chart or butcher paper to create a model large enough to be viewed by the entire class.
  5. Discuss results. Which area was utilized the most? Least? Review percolation and worm data. What do you notice? Are you surprised by any of the data? Explain.


Lesson Resources
NYS Standards
MST 1 - Mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design
MST 4- Physical setting, living environment and nature of science
Benchmarks for Science Literacy
1B Scientific Inquiry
2A Patterns and Relationships
4C Processes that shape the earth

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