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Finding life in a small square of ground

Students look closely in a small square of ground (grassy area, park or beach) and discover how many living things there are, even in a small space.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Science topic (2005 curriculum connection): 
Life Science: Characteristics of Living Things (grade K)
Life Science: Needs of Living Things (grade 1)
Life Science: Habitats and Communities (grade 4)
Life Science: Diversity of Life (grade 6)
Life Science: Ecosystems (grade 7)
  • science notebook/worksheet and pencil for each student
  • loop of string for each student, 1m - 4m circumference, depending on the habitat and the number of students in each group
  • optional: 4 short sticks for each student (to stake out the string)
  • collecting boxes for small animals, to study and release again

Out in the schoolyard/park/beach, give each student a loop of string. Ask them to make a square with the string within a designated area, and stake it out if this is possible. Ask the students to draw a square in their notebooks, and then draw what they see in their string square. They can make a key of each kind of living thing they find, using a symbol for each kind of living thing (e.g. G for grass), and mapping where they find each in the square. The object is to find as many living things as possible in the square. (Two plants that look different count as two different living things).

Discussion: What living things were you surprised to find? There are living things in places that you would not expect. How were the needs of the living things you found met by the surroundings you found them in?

Now that the students are skilled at looking closely, look for more living things together in a group. Also look for evidence of living things around them (e.g. nest high in a tree).

Ask students to choose one living thing to draw accurately. Make the outline fill the whole page, and draw every detail that you see on it. Label it with its name.

Grades tested: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Carole Murray
Diane Merchant
Julie Kawaguchi
Mari Matsuo
Teaching site: 
Sexsmith Elementary
Weir Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Scientist in Residence Program, Vancouver School District with teachers Ms. Kawaguchi and Ms. Merchant.
This activity is part of the Scientist in Residence lesson plan