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Day 28: Stop, drop and count, and a nature riddle

Outdoor activity ideas and inspiration

From mid-March to the end of May 2020, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) posted a simple outdoor activity idea and nature riddle for kids every weekday. Some days we also posted other resources, like downloadable chapters of the Junior Ranger Activity Book.

Created to support parents who found themselves homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, these activity ideas are a great jumping off point for any outdoor adventure. Click here for a list with links to all 50 activity ideas.

Nature riddle

What small, fur-bearing animal lives along stream banks and survives by catching fish and crayfish? Click here to read more about this fascinating animal.

Stop, drop and count

This science activity helps us compare the diversity of life in different habitats. It is first helpful to understand the difference between diversity and abundance. In this context, diversity refers to the number of different kinds of living things. Abundance is the total number of living things. So, if you had a forest of just pine trees and red-backed salamanders, you might have abundance but not diversity. If you had a forest with 10 different species of trees and 50 different species of animals, you would have diversity and abundance. Lesson over, time to go outdoors…

  1. Get a clipboard, piece of paper and pencil.
  2. Have your child wander around your yard or neighborhood or visit a trail or preserve in Harpswell.
  3. At any point during your walk, say “stop, drop and count.”
  4. Your child’s job is to immediately crouch down to the ground and count the diversity of life within his or her arm span. I like to include things that used to be living, like dead leaves. Remember, the point is to count how many different kinds of living things there are, not the total number of leaves. This makes your child look closely to see if leaves are the same or different shapes.
  5. Have your child name the habitat and write down the number of different living things he or she found. I like to avoid naming species because inevitably you won’t know the name for something. Writing down a number is sufficient.
  6. Move on to another habitat and again say, “stop, drop and count.”
  7. I encourage you to do this at least three times to be able to make comparisons. It’s great to include your driveway as one habitat.
  8. Ask questions! For example:
    • Which habitat had the most diversity?
    • Which habitat do you think had the most abundance of life? (Note that you didn’t gather data on this, but they can still guess from observations.)
    • Why does diversity matter? (Think about the complicated food chain and how loss of one species would impact many others).