This activity asks students to sort seashells and calculate the Simpson’s biodiversity index. The calculation is based on the number species in an area, dependent upon richness (number of unique species) and abundance (number of individual species). Lessons I have used in the past use the same calculations but require students to use a sample of beans, where samples have been provided that include a variable number of pinto beans, Lima beans, and other assorted beans.
The shell activity also provides student the opportunity to explore different shell patterns and match them to the organism. While it is not required, my students were curious about the names of the shells, they were able to identify calico scallops, conch shells, and lightning whelk shells by using the Florida Shell Guide.
I acquired my shells from a lamp that my grandmother had constructed after years of collecting shells at Bradenton Beach in Florida. You can purchase shells from Amazon or collect them yourself. You could also use beans or other objects to create an artificial ecosystem where students could practice applying the equation.
Grade Level: 11-12
Time Required: 20-30 minutes
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NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: 4. Analyzing and interpreting data 5. Using mathematics and computational thinking 6. Constructing explanations
CCC – 1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.