At-Home Population Biology Lab Using String

I developed this 5E lab during distance learning for my students to do at home using string, floss, thread or even toilet paper. Students make a 4 meter transect and an then use that string to make a quadrat. Use this lab for AP and on-level Environmental Science as well as AP and on-level Biology during at-home or in-class learning.

Click to download the lab. It is a free resource.

Population Biology at home

Students create a 4 meter transect line using string and a ruler and then use the sting in their yards. If students do not have yards or are in an urban area, they can use a planter or park. Students then use the same string to make a quadrat.

A quadrat using toilet paper

Equity and Access in the Population Biology Lab

For equity, I made sure kids could readily find something in their house to use so that they did not need to purchase anything. Toilet paper was the handiest and 4 meters is a tiny fraction of a roll. I also uploaded a PDF of a meter stick that is accurate on the computer if the screen is set to 100% so kids didn’t need a ruler if they didn’t have one.

Students could make up names of species or they can download the “Seek” app to identify the species on their transect lines and inside their quadrats. Having a phone with the Seek app isn’t necessary if your students don’t have access.

I also made a demo video showing how they could use a planter so if kids were in an apartment building, they could use a planter or the park. I also make sure to show all the weeds in my yard so kids would not be embarrassed if their yards weren’t pristine.

5E Design

This is a short 5E that takes under 2 hours. My students worked on it during class time of 75 minutes and finished for homework.

Engage: Two questions to help students begin thinking about how scientists measure population size, population density and biodiversity.

Explore: Students use string for a transect line and a quadrat

Explain: Two videos with question explaining how scientists use transects and quadrats.

Elaborate: An HHMI video about scientists using transects in airplanes to study elephant populations.

Evaluate: A chunk paragraph using vocabulary

Pictures courtesy of my students: CC and BG and used with permission


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