(Heinze et al., 2015). This led to the discussion about how we can
restore biodiversity in threatened areas. Many student responses
explained how more than one plant type could be planted and humans
could interfere less. Other resolutions focused specifically on mitigating habitat fragmentation and urban sprawl; “build corridors to connect habitats and replant trees that we cut down,” one student
suggested. Furthermore, another student addressed how the authorities of the city should identify habitats of high biodiversity and avoid
building there: “In Wooster, one threat is the expansion of the city.
We could combat this threat by avoiding building over forest.”
We must be cautious not to oversimplify ecological concepts,
as biodiversity is not always negatively affected by disturbance.
For advanced biology classes, the intermediate disturbance hypothesis could be discussed in relation to the data collected in the plant
study. According to the hypothesis, biodiversity is highest when an
area has moderate levels of disturbance, allowing both early and
late successional species to coexist (Roxburgh et al., 2004; Yeboah
& Chen 2016). This hypothesis can be applied to the human-nature relationship, postulating that moderate disturbance, or use
of the environment, can actually allow for increased biodiversity
instead of reducing it. (Roxburgh et al. 2004; Yeboah & Chen
2016). This discussion could deepen the students’ understanding
of biodiversity and the factors that affect it.
Modifications and Enrichment
One of the strengths of this activity is how easily it can be tailored to
meet the learning needs of your students. For example, you could
make the activity more inquiry-based by challenging your students
to design their own random sampling method for measuring plant
biodiversity of different habitats on your school grounds. You could
provide basic materials, such as marking flags and meter sticks, and
go over the different plant types they would be measuring (e.g., herbaceous plants, shrubs, saplings, and trees). At the end of this activity,
the groups could present their method and data to the class. Evaluation of limitations and strengths of the method could then be discussed as a whole group. Focusing on experimental design and data
analysis, this approach would give your students the opportunity to
work in groups to apply the rules of sampling in an inventive way.
In addition to data analysis and graphs, students could also
compile an action plan for restoring biodiversity on school grounds
or in their backyards. Students could use the plant biodiversity data
to analyze which habitats had the lowest number of plant types.
From there, students could brainstorm what specific actions they
could take to improve biodiversity in these habitats. Possible
actions include planting native species, removing invasive species,
designating an area to no longer be mowed, or cleaning up trash
and other pollution in the habitat. Furthermore, your class could
present a comprehensive proposal to the school board on how to
increase and protect the biodiversity surrounding the school. This
would give the students deadlines and real applications of their
data, which would increase their engagement with the activity. With
this approach, the objective of promoting environmentally responsi-
ble behaviors in students becomes the main focus.
This activity successfully engages all students—despite their worldviews and previous knowledge—with each other and nature to
increase their understanding of biodiversity and its local threats. This
is just one activity of many that shows students the value of protecting
nature and the benefits of being outside. The students learn random
sampling field methods, spend instructional time outside, and are
encouraged to explore more of their local natural areas, all of which
can foster a sense of place for their local ecosystems and encourage
environmentally responsible behaviors. Engaging students with nature
and real-world problems through science education is just one way to
prepare this generation to solve social and environmental issues.
I would like to thank my professors and classmates in Project Dragonfly through Miami University in Oxford, OH, and through the
Cleveland Zoo for their encouragement and feedback. Thank you
also to my coworker, Erin Petruzzi, for reviewing my manuscript.
Benavent-Gonzalez, A., Lumbreras, A., & Molina, J. (2014). Plant
communities as a tool for setting priorities in biodiversity
conservation: A novel approach to Iberian aquatic vegetation.
Biodiversity And Conservation, 23(9), 2135–2154.
Table 2. Table of class data for plant species richness in different habitats, measured by number of plant
types. The number of plant types found in the specified habitat from all student groups was averaged.
Average Number of Each Plant Type in Various Habitats
Plant Type Mowed Non-mowed Forest Forest Edge Field
Moss 0.33 1.00 0.60 0.00 0.15
SmallHerb. 6.50 2.00 2.30 7.30 2.30
Med.Herb. 0.00 2.33 2.80 2.00 1.50
Woody 0.00 1.00 0.60 1.60 0.15
Sapling 0.00 0.00 1.00 1.00 0.15
Tree 1.50 0.00 2.60 3.30 0.30
TOTAL 8.33 6.33 9.90 15.20 4.55