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Backyard Brainstorm

In this activity, learners will describe the biodiversity observed in their neighbourhoods.

Biodiversity refers to the variety of living things on Earth, including plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi. It is usually recorded for a particular habitat or ecosystem as a biodiversity survey.

A biodiversity survey may include organisms which students have observed directly, and those they have indirect evidence for. We use different senses to observe life around us, the most direct being sight, like spotting the colour of an insect or the flash of a raccoon's mask. If we notice the sounds of bird calls, or the smell of a skunk roaming the neighbourhood, these are indirect observations of biodiversity. Indirect observations may also include tracks, scat (animal poop), seeds, nests, etc.

We can also use the habitat in our neighbourhoods to predict what organisms could be present, if we know the requirement they have for survival. Habitat composition and construction of our neighbourhoods may provide boosts and barriers to certain organisms being present. From a small backyard to an entire neighbourhood, we can find many different kinds of plants and animals living in our community.

BioBlitz is a biodiversity survey with in a set time frame. This is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. At a BioBlitz, scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to get a snapshot of an area's biodiversity.

Whether it's through a general survey or a BioBlitz, when we record these observations and make data available to scientists, we become part of a growing global community science network.

Objectives

  • Observe local biodiversity.

  • Identify common plants and animals.

  • Discuss habitats and the needs of organisms.

Materials

  • Per Student or Group:
    something to write with
    something to write on

     

     

  • Optional:
    camera or phone to record sighting to download to iNaturalist app or Seek App

    animal, plant, insect identification books or charts (see list of resources)

Key Questions

  • What is biodiversity?
  • Why would there be a difference in biodiversity in our backyards compared to the school yard? Or between our schoolyard and a park?
  • What would you expect to find in a wild ecosystem? What do they require to survive?
  • How does biodiversity affect human quality of life in our community?

What To Do

  1. As a class, brainstorm a list from the following questions:
    * What kinds of plants do you have in your neighbourhood? (Answers may be general like grass, tree, moss).
    * What kinds of animals can you see in your backyard? (Answers may include coyotes, raccoons, sparrows, robins, insects, worms)
    * What kinds of living things can you find in your school playground or outdoor area?
  2. Go outdoors and prompt students with cues from their senses: What different sounds do you hear? What are making those sounds? What do you smell? What is making that smell?
  3. Have students use cameras, sketchbooks, or notebooks to record the living things they observe in the schoolyard.
  4. Compile the full list of organisms observed.

Teacher Tip: for information privacy reasons, students may use the SEEK identificationApp from iNaturalist, no registration is involved, no user data is collected, and generalized location is used for Species ID suggestions.

Extensions

  • How does the presence or absence of certain species effect the humans in a neighbourhood?
  • What factors increase the biodiversity? Design a project that influences habitat to influence biodiversity.
  • Conduct a BioBlitz: Set aside one hour and discover how many organisms you can record during this period. Look for a BioBlitz run by a nature organization in your community!

Other Resources

Nature Companion | Western Canadian Provinces Organism IDs

National Geographic | BioBlitz Program

National Geographic | Video | Schoolyard BioBlitz

iNaturalist CANADA

iNaturalist | BioBlitz Guide

Seek App