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Outdoor Activity Exploring Plant Diversity

ACTIVITY: Exploring Diversity.

Life has recently been discovered on two planets, currently named Nearer and Farther. Survey expeditions are being undertaken to characterize life on each, with the objective of comparing the charcteristics of life on the two planets both with each other and with life on earth. The general effort is to better understand general properties of living systems.

Mission: You are a member of one such expeditionary group.

  • Your group should generate a report of the total number of unique types of plants.
  • Your group must return with a scheme for categorizing plant life on the planet assigned - what characteristics did your group use to differentiate types of plants
  • Your report should include your thoughts on why the planet contains the particular number of different plants you describe.
  • Present your report - Oral presentation or written report or both.
Relevant information about plant (and fungal) life on earth:

Follow Up Activity:
  • What is an Ecosystem?
  • Where does one start and another begin? How does one distinguish between ecosystems?
  • What do they do?
  • What happens when ecosystems are degraded? How does one even tell if ecosystem functions are diminished?

Understanding Ecosystems: Structure and Function
Make a Legend for this Map.

Links on Ecosystems and Biomes:


joycetheriot's picture

Legal Issues

To avoid problems, (allergy etc) I would bring in the plant samples to the lab, have students view and record them in a variety of ways with different tools of their choice, (making certain that they are using nitrile gloves and goggles) and then at some later time

... maybe the spring when I know my students well and who may have allergies...

I will take the students outside with their drawings, images and/or pressed samples and see if they can match or identify them in an new season.

Diane OFee-Powers's picture

Exploring Diversity

It is always fun to get the students outside! But, this activity is more than a fun day outside! I liked the idea of having the students classify the species, then come back another time with a magnifying glass, or a ruler, or another tool to assist them in classifying.

Again, I would utilize this as a cross curriculum activity in science & writing. Writing in science provides the students the opportunity to express what they learned scientifically in a written expression. Studies show that this will prepare them for standardized test, NOT THAT I THINK WE SHOULD BE SO TEST ORIENTED!, but it is something that we need to be aware of.

Also. teachers are suppose to differentiate instruction and reading the students written work about their observations will show if they need some re-instruction. I recently read about using science journals & writing conferences as part of differentiated instruction . This activity seems simple, but it can be utilized for many different assessments.


Susan Dorfman's picture

I didn't get it so right

Before we exited to explore the diversity of plants in the patch of soil outside Room 100, I predicted I would find at least 100 uniques forms of plant life visible with my unaided eyes.

I made the prediction without any information about the appearance of the patch. Arriving outside, I noticed that the patch was not as lushly populated as I thought. There were many bare spots. I started with the largest plants, the trees and bushes, that got my attention first. I compared the leaves to separate them as unique organisms. I looked for flowering plants that were not woody, grasses, weeds, and then non-vascular plants. I came up with 11 but felt that there might be more.

I would hope that students would gain from this exercise:

  • There is a difference between opinion- what you think- and an idea that is supported by fact. Observing the organisms in the patch as opposed to guessing the conditions that might support a prediction of the number of unique organisms
  • More practice to increase their powers of observation
  • The importance or lack of importance of size as a characteristic - organisms may appear differently at different stages of development


Deesha Lockett's picture

Outdoor activity/ diversity

This activity would be a very fun activity for kindergarten students because they like the outdoors and are very curious. I would defininitely use this with my class. It might be fun to have them draw pictures of the different groups of things they find for the activity as a way to help them keep track of what they see.
RecycleJack Marine's picture

Thoughts about Day One

Today was an interesting introduction to this two week event. There are a diverse group of teachers here, but I am not sure what grades they all teach.

I relearned how to access my Serendip blog! We may learn how to make a video for YouTube...

We completed a puzzle activity that provided a challenging concept regarding the organization of materials. We didn't explore the countless variations of these variations of sorting objects into groups, but it was still invigorating!

We also went outside and observed using our sense of sight, how many cdifferent varieties of plants we could find in a particular outside area. I guessed to find amost 40: I found 23. It may be a good activity at WPACES, with another adult as a chaperone.

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