Lesson ideas for ‘Big Picture: Populations’
Suggestions for using this issue in the classroom
Students can watch our video ‘What’s up, buttercup?: Population sampling techniques’, and then complete a data analysis investigation.
Investigate if there is a significant difference in the number of buttercups found at the top of the field compared with the number of buttercups at the bottom of the field. Do these data/outcomes correlate with any biotic factors?
For help with data analysis, see our ‘Big Picture: Number Crunching’ issue.
Links to other population studies
As a useful aid to practical work, Science & Plants for Schools have prepared three online ecology investigations to help students understand how different techniques might be used:
- Using random sampling to measure the abundance of different species on an area of grassland.
- Investigating the zonation of different populations along an environmental gradient.
- Comparing the abundance of different species at contrasting sites.
Students doing an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification), Scottish Advanced Highers or the International Baccalaureate can use ‘Big Picture: Populations’ and its related links in their research projects and investigations.
Some project ideas to share with students include:
Investigate how research about extremophiles advances our understanding of molecular science or the search for life on other planets.
Investigate how the human population has changed over time and the different projections for the future.
Carry out your own population study: remember to plan carefully, do your own risk assessment, check that you have permission to access and sample your chosen population(s), and check the ethics of your approach.
Create a poster to share the results of your investigations into a population topic. For example:
- Examine the impact of the harlequin ladybird on the UK indigenous two-spot ladybird.
- Could the slime mould Physarum polycephalum assist in town planning?
Debate and discuss
These topics and case studies can be used to start student debates and discussions:
- What is the most unusual population?
- What impact has Thomas Malthus had on our understanding of human population development? Read our two articles, Supersized and Malthus vs Boserup for background information.
- Cervical cancer vaccination case study.
- Birth control case study.
- Antibiotic resistance case study.
- Genetically modified crops case study.