Measuring Biodiversity

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Learners use a variety of beans to represent a variety of species, and scatter these beans over a large piece of paper representing the environment. They then use random sampling methods to catalog the species of beans present in their environment. Learners can estimate the total population and distribution of species in the whole population based on their samples.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Variety of dried beans/grains (10+ kinds)
  • Paper cups
  • Yardstick (or some other straight edge)
  • Large sheet of paper (2ft x 3ft)


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

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Huffard, Crissy ; Wedel, Matt


  • All rights reserved, Berkeley Natural History Museums and the Regents of the University of California, 2011