Here is a great activity you can start with your children now and carry out repeatedly over time. Have your students select a small plot of yard or garden to observe over time. Ideally the plot will be in an area that is likely to change – such as a garden – rather than a spot of yard that will stay largely the same.
Use a meter stick or measuring tape to measure out a 1m x 1m square plot, which you can mark with four sticks and string. Scientists work with the metric system, so it is important to take the effort to establish a plot that is 1m2, rather than using foot-long rulers or a yardstick. This could be a good opportunity to discuss the metric system and/or do some conversions from feet to meters. This will be their “One Small Square Plot.”
Children can take repeated observations of their One Small Square Plot over time. They should observe and try to quantify ground cover, including the percent of ground covered with rock, dirt, or vegetation. They can also count the number of species present, and categorize plants and animals into broad categories such as vertebrates, invertebrates, grasses/herbs, vines, trees, and bushes. Older students may also track the number of species and number of monocots and dicots in their Plot. Children may also enjoy measuring the height of growth over time – although it is important to label any plants that they measure so that they can return to the same plant over time.
Children should establish a science journal, notebook, or computer folder to keep their observations ordered. Encourage children to make observations in the method that is best for them – writing, drawing, or even talking on a video or voice recording. Children will especially benefit from this activity if they observe changes between winter and spring, when new growth emerges, so we encourage you to start this project as soon as possible.
This activity has been done successfully for many years at the Arlington Traditional School, where Ms. Anu volunteers. Read about their One Small Square Plots here: http://www.apsva.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=8609&ViewID=97313D1D-A9CF-4646-A5A5-0C355FBAC071&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=24592&PageID=3592