Schoolyard Biodiversity Investigation Educator Guide

The Schoolyard Biodiversity Investigation provides students with the opportunity to learn about biodiversity in a tangible and available environment – their own schoolyard. Whether the campus is a sea of cement and grass or contains a diverse garden or forest, the opportunity for students to investigate first-hand will deepen their understanding of biodiversity, ways to measure it, and the impact people have on it. After looking at their schoolyards, students can then apply their newly-gained knowledge to understand biodiversity and its deeper issues in their local habitats, as well as in far-reaching places. The Schoolyard Biodiversity Guide builds upon student’s field investigation skills, including formulating a hypothesis, designing and implementing an investigation, analyzing data and developing conclusions. For more information, please see the Pacific Education Institute’s Field Investigations: Using Outdoor Environments to Foster Student Learning of Scientific Processes. A downloadable pdf is available at:

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
GLE 0601.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through the use of grammar and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
GLE 0807.5.5
Describe the importance of maintaining the earths biodiversity.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Essential and guiding questions: 

If we collected vegetation or animal data at a different time of the year, would we get the same Diversity Index calculations? Why or why not?
An area with lots of weeds might score a high Diversity Index. Does a high Diversity Index always mean a habitat is healthy? Why or why not?

  • What are some limitations or problems with random sampling to calculate diversity? (random samples don’t cover all areas; students may not have collected data from enough sample areas; some people have more experience indentifying differences in plants and animals, etc.) 
  • What does biological diversity mean?
  • What is a monoculture?
  • Why didn’t all the different trees get the disease? (hint - genetics)
  • In which forest would you need to use more chemicals to control disease: the Douglas fir forest or the more varied forest? Why?
  • Which forest would have more diversity of wildlife? Why?
  • If you cut down a forest that has a variety of trees and replanted with one type of tree:
  • What will happen to much of the wildlife that was adapted to that prior forest? (Hint: they can always just move elsewhere. If other habitats are good, they will probably be near carrying capacity already. In other words, the surrounding areas may already have good-sized populations growing in them.)
  • Will this happen to all the wildlife? Explain.
  • Growing one plant, as is the case of growing only Douglas-fir, is called monoculture. Besides in neighborhoods, where else might we find monocultures?

Unit Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints


  • Pencils
  • Colored Pencils
  • Campus Maps
  • Plain paper for student-created maps
  • Large butcher paper and copy of school map for large, cut-up map
  • Schoolyard Biodiversity Data Sheets (1 set for investigation, extra copies for practice, as needed)
  • Vegetation Survey Data Sheet
  • Wildlife Survey Data Sheet
  • Alien Planet Habitat and Key (1 set per pair of students)
  • Clipboards
  • Tape measures
  • Stopwatches/timers
  • Thermometers
  • Pre-measured rope or tape measure
  • “Flagged sticks” (sticks or pencils with flagging tape tied on top) – 4 per plot
  • Clipboard
  • Student Instructions for Vegetation Survey (this paper)
  • Schoolyard Biodiversity Investigation – Vegetation Survey – Data collection sheet
  • Invasive Plant Identification Cards