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Hula Hoop Biodiversity
(modified from Investigating in Nature’s “Hula Hoop Biodiversity” and Earth Partnership for School’s
“What’s Green and Grows All Over? Studying Ecosystem Biodiversity”)
SUMMARY: Students compare the biodiversity of a natural or
restored ecosystem with a lawn or other cultivated "ecosystem."
ACTIVITY TIME: 45 minutes to one hour
MATERIALS NEEDED: Each student group will need one hula
hoop, a clip board, pen, colored pencils
SEASON: late spring, summer, early fall
OBJECTIVES: Students will:
understand issues related to species biodiversity and
collect and interpret data to answer a question
explore and determine best data collection and data
presentation procedures
1. What is biodiversity?
2. What makes a healthy ecosystem?
Next Generation Science Standards:
2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants
and animals to compare diversity of
life in different habitats.
3-LS4-3. Construct an argument with
evidence that in a particular habitat
some organisms can survive well,
some survive less well, and some
cannot survive at all.
MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data
to provide evidence for the effects of
resource availability on organisms
and populations of organisms in an
MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design
solutions for maintaining biodiversity
and ecosystem services.
1. Announce to the class that they are going to go on an
exploratory mission of their schoolyard.
2. Have students form teams of 3 and hand out the data collection sheet.
3. Demonstrate the activity by tossing the hula hoop onto some type of green space (or walking over
to a spot with tall plants and drop it form overhead).
4. Invite students to make observations of the different types of plants they see inside the hula hoop.
5. Other factors to note and record are:
a. Sunny or shady?
b. Cold or warm?
c. How many plants are flowering?
d. Are there animals present? (or evidence of animal visitors?)
Field Work – Data Collection:
1. Students will now conduct their own investigation by following the same procedure as above.
First, guide students to a sports field or mowed lawn and have each group toss their hula hoop
and record all of the plants/observations on their data sheet.
2. Next, guide students to site such as a prairie, streamside, woodland, etc. Repeat step one.
3. Students could go onto a third site if time permits.
Data Analysis:
1. As a class, find the average number of plants (and animals) at each site based on the data
collected by each team. Record this information in a place all students can see.
2. Develop a way to present your findings graphically (bar graph? Pie graph of each site showing
the different species? Etc.)
3. Optional – Follow the Extension Activity below to graph the Species Area Curves for each site.
(Students will need to identify plants for this activity. See Earth Partnership for Schools K-12
Curriculum Guide, Study the Model 1-4, for more information).
Discussion: (modify questions for grade level, readiness)
1. What is biodiversity? What does it mean to have high or low biodiversity?
2. Is biodiversity important? Why or why not?
3. What did you notice about the “microclimate” of the lawn verses the other sites? (windy, hot,
4. If you were an animal, which site would you want to live in? Explain why.
5. Brainstorm – Ideas to increase biodiversity on our schoolyard?
1. In your team develop a plan to increase the biodiversity on your schoolyard. Be sure to consider
recreational needs, traffic patterns, and maintenance. Create a visual and present it to the class
for feedback.
2. Think of two other ways to sample the schoolyard for biodiversity. Plan and carry out your
surveying method. Collect data and report back to the class.
3. Write a letter to your parents describing your schoolyard’s biodiversity. Be sure to explain the
terms biodiversity, ecosystem, and habitat in your letter.
Extension – Species Area Curve (to complete this each plant needs to be identified and named)
1. Bring the class back together. As a class, plot the number of species found in one group's circle
on a Species Area Curve. A second group should then examine their data to see if they found
additional species that the previous group did not mention. Plot the second data point by taking
the number of species found by the previous group and add to that the number of additional
species found by the second group. For example in the curve below, Group 1 found six species on
the prairie. Group 2 found three species the group 1 did not find. A dot was then recorded at nine
for Group 2 to represent the total number of species found by both groups. Group 2 need not have
found all of the original six identified by Group 1.
2. Plot the number of additional species this second group has found. Continue plotting the number
of new species found by each group in the class. Create separate curves for each ecosystem
sampled. Determine the average number of species per plot and the total number of species by the
3. What is the difference in species distribution between the two ecosystems sampled?