Human Impacts—Local Habitat Assessment

Summary: Students explore their schoolyard or other local site to determine how human activity may have impacts on animal habitats, animal populations, and/or plant populations.

Concepts to teach: Habitat, adaptation, scientific inquiry, erosion, invasive species

Goals: Students will apply their knowledge about land use to their local outdoor site, and assess the real or potential impact of human land use on native species.

S6.3S1, S6.3S2
S7.3S1, S7.3S2
S8.3S1, S8.3S2

Specific Objectives:

  1. Categorize components of a local land area based on the degree to which the land is in a natural or disturbed state.
  2. Determine the habitat requirements for a local species found on the site.
  3. Collect field data that relates species abundance to habitat type.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Refer to studies of habitats in the Coastal Ecology and Ecosystems Module: Macrointertebrate Topic Guide
  • Habitat Inquiry—Students conduct a simple experiment that relates habitat type to species abundance in the school yard.
  • Use historic maps, photographs, and interviews with community elders and other experts to determine local changes that have occurred to the site over time.
  • Oregon Coast Quests
    • Yaquina Head Tale of Two Hills Quest—This self-guided place-based activity located in Newport tells the story of land use changes at Yaquina Head over 100 years. Featured human impacts include burning, livestock grazing, rock quarrying, golfing, residential development, and modern electrical towers.
    • Make a Quest or other interpretive guide that features the human impacts that students have identified in their local field site.


  • Use or develop formative assessment probes to gauge student understanding about the water cycle. The following probes from Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, vol. 2 could be applied or modified (to obtain Uncovering Student Ideas in Science publications or access sample chapters, visit the NSTA website):
    • Habitat Change—explores student understanding of how animal populations are affected when habitats are changed.
  • Probe: Rain on the Parking Lot—the purpose of this OCEP probe is to elicit students’ ideas about how rainwater interacts with impervious surfaces.
  • Select an organism living in the study site and identify its habitat requirements.