herbaceous plants, medium herbaceous plants, woody stemmed
plants/shrubs, saplings, and large trees. Note: moss could be
excluded if you want to focus only on vascular plants. A handout
should be provided on which students record their data and evaluate the class data (Supplemental Material).
Suggested Pacing and Sample Data
I suggest four class days for this activity, and have broken down my
proposed pacing in Table 1. For their culminating project, the students added their data to an interactive Google Map, graphed the
class data, and analyzed the relationship between plant biodiversity
and human disturbance (Figures 2–4).
In the sample data presented in Figures 2–4 and Table 2,
I include the Google Maps from my general Biology class and the
Excel data from my AP Biology classes. My general Biology class
consisted of 25 students who worked in 9 groups, and my AP Biol-
ogy classes consisted of 35 students who worked in 15 groups.
Each group was assigned a specific habitat and gathered two trials
of data on the plant biodiversity present. The groups added their
total data in the form of pins on the Google My Maps Service
(the Map). Color-coded pins based on habitat were dropped on
the exact location the data was taken (Figures 2–3). The use of
Google My Maps Service allowed for the spatial relationship of
the habitats and their diversity to be indicated. Furthermore, this
showed the fragmentation of habitats and which habitat types cov-
ered the most area. Next, each group totaled the number of plant
types they found in their habitat, then found the average total
between their two trials. For example, the sample trial shown in
1 includes six total plant types. The groups pooled their data,
and the average number of plant types per habitat was determined
(Table 2, Figure 4).
An extension of this activity required the students to collect
plant biodiversity data at their home or a local park. The students
individually added these data points as pins to the class map
(Figures 2–3). An interactive form of the map can be found at
https://goo.gl/Ym89tq (case sensitive). After all pins were added,
the students analyzed the data.
Analysis of Data and Discussion
The students worked cooperatively within their groups to determine
if one habitat had consistently higher biodiversity than the other
habitats and explained why. Secondly, they looked for habitats with
consistently low plant biodiversity and extrapolated possible causes.
Furthermore, the students discussed possible actions that could be
taken to remediate areas of low plant biodiversity in groups and as
a whole class. From whole class discussion and written responses
from individuals, the students concluded that high levels of human
activity, such as mowing and cultivating, had negative effects on
plant biodiversity. Conversely, habitats including the forest, forest
edge, and non-mowed grassy area with minimal human interference
had high levels of biodiversity (Table 2, Figure 4).
Other research supports this conclusion. Land use and human disturbances, such as mowing, strongly affect plant biodiversity by only
allowing plants that are tolerant to specific disturbances to survive
Table 1. Suggested pacing guide for implementing the plant biodiversity analysis activity. The student
and teacher roles are defined.
Day Description of Activity; Student and Teacher Roles
Student Role — Students will work in groups of 2–3 to collect data using the meter stick random sampling
method in their assigned habitat. At least two trials of data should be taken. The students are assigned to use the
same method to collect data in a habitat in their backyard or local park.
Teacher Role — The teacher will model one sample trial of the method before allowing students to go to their
assigned habitat. While the students are collecting data, the teacher will circulate among them to make sure they
stay on task and complete the data collection thoroughly.
Student Role — Students will average the data collected by the group for the number of plant types they observed in
their assigned study site. Then, they will share the data as a pin on the Google My Maps Service (the Map) and as data
in a class spreadsheet. Students who took extra data at home or at another natural area will do the same. The students
will start to analyze the data by building a graph that best represents the data. This can be done in Excel or by hand.
Teacher Role — The teacher will have made the Map and the spreadsheet for the students to input their data.
Then, the teacher will instruct the students on how to navigate the Map. The teacher will guide students with
how to build a graph to represent the data, but this should be student-led.
Student Role — The students will independently analyze the data by finishing the graph they started yesterday.
Then, they will use the graph and the Map to further analyze the data and evaluate the biodiversity of the various
habitats. A guided question sheet (Appendix) is provided by the teacher for the students to fill in.
Teacher Role — The teacher will answer questions and guide the student progress.
Student Role — In their assigned groups, the students will discuss their findings of which habitats are most
diverse, least diverse, and why. The students will evaluate the role of human disturbance on plant biodiversity and
discuss how to restore biodiversity in areas where it was low.
Teacher Role — The teacher will facilitate whole group discussion on the role of human activity on ecosystem
stability and biodiversity.