Populations Lab: Design a Study to Estimate the Size of a Population - NGSS

Populations Lab: Design a Study to Estimate the Size of a Population - NGSS
Populations Lab: Design a Study to Estimate the Size of a Population - NGSS
Populations Lab: Design a Study to Estimate the Size of a Population - NGSS
Populations Lab: Design a Study to Estimate the Size of a Population - NGSS
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Product Description

This activity proceeds as follows:

1. Students brainstorm about why it is important to estimate the population of organisms

2. Students learn how to estimate population using the “sampling” technique

3. Students learn how to estimate population using the “mark and recapture” technique

4. Students design a study to estimate a real population, and carry out their study.

5. Extension Activity: Students read an article about the overfishing of Bluefin tuna, which is down to 4% of the population that it was several decades ago.

Details Below:


DCI’s: LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

Cross Cutting Concepts: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

Scientific and Engineering Practices:

Asking Questions, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Developing and Using Models, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

"Food Chain Model Game " is a fun, inquiry-based activity in which students write rules to a game that models food-chains. It is NGSS Aligned.

Get it here: Food Chain Model Game

"Airborne Bacteria Lab" is a simple, problem-solving lab where students emply basic math skills to estimate the number of bacteria in the classroom. It is NGSS Aligned.

Get it here: Airborne Bacteria Lab

"Animal Cracker Ecology" is a great activity to start with before using this product. It is NGSS Aligned.

Get it here: Animal Cracker Ecology

With "Ecosystem Site Map", students practice being field ecologists; creating a site map of the the local ecosystem.

Get it here: Ecosystem Site Map


Prior Knowledge: No specific prior knowledge is required for this activity. It fits into an ecology unit, in an environmental curriculum, or even in math class. A very basic math ability is required.

Implementing the Lesson:

Materials and Setup: There is a bit of cutting that will need to be done if you using the page of paper frogs found at the end of this. They will be used for the “Mark and Recapture” technique. I usually cut at least one sheet of the frogs per pair, and put them in a Ziploc bag. Make a note (that students don’t see) of the number of frogs in each bag, and randomize the number. Sometimes, I just make five or six bags of between 60 and 100 frogs in each bag, and have students come to the front and pick a bag. They can share.

1. I suggest you open the lesson by discussing an animal that is common to your area. You could talk about the population of bear, or deer, or coyote, or brown pelican. You could ask questions like, how do we know how many of ____ there are around here? Why do we care?

2. Then, have students complete the sampling problems, and the mark and recapture problems up to “Activity 1”. The packet is designed for students to be able to work through, for the most part.

3. Then, distribute (or have students come up and get) the Ziploc bags of organisms (paper cut out, or plastic, or beans, etc…the choice is yours).

4. Have students work through activity 1 as you circulate the room, and help when needed.

5. Bring students back together, and introduce Activity 2, which is a study they will be designing to employ one of the two methods they just learned. There are details/notes about implementing the study in the answer section.

6. I’ve included an optional reading about the severe decrease of the blue-fin tuna population. The article makes the subject of populations, and changing populations, relevant. There are questions to accompany the article.

This activity is appropriate for 5th grade through high school.

My students enjoy this activity. If yours liked it, there are more like this at my TpT store:


Terms of Use

• This packet is 1 classroom/teacher use only. Do not make copies or

email it to your colleagues. This was designed by me and is for your

personal (one user)use. You may

not share it or claim it as your own. You may not redistribute it.

If colleagues are interested in it, please send them the link to my store:


• You are not permitted to use any part of this work to

create products for sharing or selling.

• You are permitted to share the cover image of the packet

on your website when referring to it in a post, as long as

you link back to my store.

All rights reserved by author.

Total Pages
23 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 days
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