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In this activity (on pages 10-17), learners discover how scientists study biodiversity and the health of the environment based on inspection of small areas—a process known as sampling. Learners predict the living things they might find in a small area, then use a tool called a "linear transect," which is a line placed on the ground to measure the location and number of plants or animals in that area. Learners collect real data, compare their data to their predictions, and explore what their findings show about the biodiversity of their area. This activity could be used at a school site, a protected natural area, or even a back yard.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 magnifying lenses
  • 2 end markers (bricks or stones)
  • 12-meter transect line
  • 2 copies of data collection sheet, p.14
  • 8 cardboard strips (3 x 36 cm)
  • stapler or tape
  • 12-13 meters of string
  • 1 dark-colored felt marker
  • masking tape (2-3 cm wide)
  • 1 meter measuring stick


  • Earth and Space Science
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
    • Science as a Career

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Designed specifically for

  • Rural dweller

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Explicity developed for this group


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, University of Nebraska State Museum and Nebraska 4-H, 2001

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation Informal Science Education Program, 9909496
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute