Project-Based Science

Grades 7–8
Cesar Chavez Middle School
Watsonville, CA

Major Objectives

  • Measure and compare biodiversity in different areas of a schoolyard ecosystem


Students collected data using quadrats on two separate occasions in two designated areas. They then compared the biodiversity of the two areas by analyzing and interpreting their data through graphing, discussion and writing activities, culminating in independent writing of conclusions supported by evidence. Students then used transects to gather biodiversity data on what lives below the surface in the garden area. That data was also analyzed and interpreted, and these writing pieces served as formative assessments before the class proceeded to a more in-depth investigation of biodiversity. In teams, students researched Bioblitz protocols and read a short nonfiction article on biodiversity. In teams, students conducted the Bioblitz, recording the number of different species of plants and animals in the garden ecosystem. As a concluding summative assessment activity, students completed an Ecosystem Report Card which included graphing and writing about their overall findings. The written work included suggestions for improving the biodiversity of the garden all based on the data they had collected.

Notes from the Field

"I started with one rather simple project piece—exploring ocean plastics pollution—and never looked back. Now I work some type of project-based science into all of the content I teach. It has become apparent that this is the way I enjoy teaching and, more importantly, how my students enjoy learning!"