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Activity 5: Inwood Hill Park Ecological Study_Independent Research

Activity Description

This activity involves a week of in class preparation for a independent research project.  Student teams will use the scientific method to develop a research question about Inwood Hill Park.  They should then perform a literature search to get expert knowledge on their study organisms, and then use the ecological study methods learned previously to develop a detailed sampling plan. Then, students go on a field trip to Inwood Hill Park where collect data in their plots according to their research plan. They then spend the next week in class analyzing the data and presenting their findings.

Estimated Time of Activity

Five 45 minute classes plus a 2-3 hour field trip, and then another five 45 minute classes.

Activity Objectives

Students will be able do the following as a result of the activity:

  1. Use the scientific method to design a research project and find a research question about Inwood Hill Park
  2. Perform a background literature search to gain expert knowledge about their study organism.
  3. Design a research plan that will allow them to answer their question
  4. Know how to employ the previously learned ecological research methods in order to collect data to answer their research question
  5. Use basic statistical approaches to analyze collected data
  6. Use powerpoint to make a short presentation of their findings to the class


Activity Instructions

  1. The students should spend the first week developing their research plan.  The attached word document has instructions for how the students should accomplish this task.  A lot of time should be spent with the students designing a good research question.  It should involve diversity estimates, use several of the methods used for collecting ecological data, and be useful for future scientists.
  2. Students should then spend time collecting background research on their organisms, whether plant or animal.  The research should give natural history information about the organism and hopefully give some insight into the state of the organism in the park, region, or national level.  The literature search should help guide the students design of methods.
  3. Students will then go into the field and mark out their plots.  They will all take notes in their field notebooks and the will begin setting up the methods to collect their data.  Students should be primarily working alone in their teams with little guidance.
  4. During the second week, student should analyze their data and try to answer their research question.  All the data should be properly organized and stored in a digital form.
  5. Students should compile all their data in one shared spreadsheet, and then start working on a short powerpoint presentation discussing their results
  6. Groups should present what they found and discuss any larger results.  


The teacher should assess students through their team presentations, the completeness of individual field notebooks, the completeness of the proposed research plan, the depth of the background literature search, and the design of the sampling and field portion of the project.



  • Individual Research Project Report Form - doc