Find an undisturbed grassy region approximately 20' by 5'. Take the stakes and hammer them into each corner to form a large rectangle. Tie the string to the stakes about 3 inches above the grass around the perimeter of the rectangle. If you have extra stakes, go ahead and place two in the center of the ends of the 5' region. (See below.)
Inform the students that they are now officially ecologists and that the city of Lake Linden has hired them to do a study of insect species in the local park. In order for the area to be considered "healthy," a certain number of insect species and a certain number of insects must exist per acre (or any square region you wish to use). Since doing a study on the entire park would take too long, a smaller section is being analyzed for the study. At the end of the study, this smaller region will be multiplied by whatever factor is needed to keep the proportions the same for the entire park. This is an easy way to incorporate math into a science experiment!
Spread the students out so that they surround the region on the two longer sides of the rectangle. Each student will spend 20 minutes counting insects and tallying them on his/her sheet. When finished, the class will have an approximate count of insects over the region. Other classes could join in ot get a more accurate measurement. When completed, multiply by the proportion necessary to get an approximate count of insects and insect species for the park. Happy counting!
Shawn Len, 2000.