Cactus Wheel

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In this outdoor activity/field trip, learners explore the concept of population density. Using a simple hunt-and-walk technique, learners will count several kinds of desert plants and compare their population densities. This activity is designed for desert areas but can be adapted to other ecosystems. Also, check your local botanical gardens, they may have a desert plant section.

Quick Guide

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Field Trip


Materials List (per group of students)

  • pencils and paper
  • Action cards (in PDF)
  • data board with two sheets of paper
  • marking pen
  • metric ruler
  • pencil compass for drawing circles
  • large comb (if cholla cacti are present)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Populations
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



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