Skip to Main Content

Aleza Lake Research Forest: Learning Resource

Grade 4-7: Plotting and Surveying (Science) - Outdoor

Materials & Resources

  • Length of rope (approx. 3 meters) 
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils 
  • Flagging tape


Guiding Question: What can I learn about the environment from its physical characteristics? 

This activity is going to explore the process of plotting and surveying in a simplified form. You will work together to make predictions, establish a plot, make notes, and describe findings. This activity is best conducted in an outdoor space.


[Give a brief introduction to the Aleza Lake Research Forest Society.] What do they do, why they do it, and how they do it? 

What do you think forestry involves? What are a forester’s responsibilities? What is the point of forestry? 

Foresters have a variety of jobs, but the ones we are talking about today are the timbercruising and silviculture surveying. These jobs involve studying the make-up and development of forest growth to learn whether the forest will produce merchantable trees and when. Merchantable trees are trees that have grown wide, tall, and healthy enough to provide sellable wood. 

Discuss the reasoning behind foresters wearing visi-vests, hard hats, and other safety-wear. Why would they wear these things? What are some dangers of working in the forest? 

Group Activity:

Divide into small groups (3-5). Each group will get a rope, a notebook, and a pencil. Each group is going to do the following things:

  1. Make a Prediction 
  2. Establish a Plot 
  3. Conduct Research
  4. Assess Results

1. Make Predictions: 

  • Discuss what types of plants will you see the most of in your plot. Flowers? Trees? Grass? Why?
  • Write down one prediction in your notebook about what you will find.
  • What kind of evidence or experiences might lead you to make this prediction?
Diagram of a circular plot

Diagram # 1: Establish a plot. Image from Fulcrum, "Calculate radius for plot sampling," accessed April 20, 2020.

2. Establish a Plot: 

With predictions in mind, find a place in the outdoors to establish a plot with your group. Look for a space with a wide variety of plants in the environment. If possible, try to keep a few feet away from other groups.

Create your plot:

  1. Find a point on the ground to be the centre of their plot.
  2. Place one end of the rope there and have one member of the group (Group Member #1) stand at that spot, holding one end of the rope.
  3. Keeping that end of the rope in one spot, use the other end of the rope to measure a circle with the original end at the centre. Group Member #1 stands holding one end of the rope turning on that spot while Group Member #2 holds the other end of the rope, walking in a circle around Group Member #1. Make sure the rope is held straight and taut.
  4. As Group Members 1 & 2 create the circle plot, the remaining group member(s) should follow Group Member #2 around the circle marking off the circumference with flagging tape (or bits of ribbon or string) on the ground
  5. This is your plot.

3. Conduct Research: 

Once the plot has established, answer the following questions in your notebook (these can be written down in your notebooks ahead of time). All questions must be answered with information within the plot that has been established. 

  • What type of plant do you see the most of? 
  • What other types of plants do you see? 
  • What is a ground made up of? Gravel? Sand? Clay? 
  • How much sunlight does this space get? 
  • Measure the heights of the tallest plants in your plot and record what they are (ie. Dandelion - 2 inches). Count how many of those plants are in your plot. 
  • Do you notice any plants close together? Far apart? 

Clean up your plot and remove any flagging tape (or ribbon or string) that you used to mark your plot. Try to make the area look as though you were never there.

4. Assess Results: 

Come back together as a class to talk about findings. What were some of your findings? What kind of deductions can you make? Do plants with better sunlight grow taller? Do some plants enjoy being close to each other? Why do you think that is?

Learning Intention & Core Competencies

Learning Intention: Learners will understand a simplified plotting and surveying process. 

Core Competency Focus - Collaboration: I can confidently interact and build relationships with other group members to further shared goals. I can identify and apply roles and strategies to facilitate groupwork. I draw on past experiences to negotiate and develop group processes. I am an active listener and speaker. I share my ideas and try to connect them with others’ ideas, I ask clarifying questions and check for understanding when appropriate, and I test my ideas with others and consider their input. I help resolve conflicts and challenges as they arise. I recognize how my contributions and those of others complement each other. I can plan with others and adjust our plan according to the group’s purpose.

Big Ideas: All living things sense and respond to their environment (Grade 4 Science). Multicellular organisms rely on internal systems to survive, reproduce, and interact with their environment (Grade 6 Science).