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Hula Hoop ecology

Kids love hula hoops

Hula Hoop Girl from FreePhoto.net stock photo

Ecology is simply the study of how organisms interact with each other and their environment. It can often feel too overwhelming to study if you are not trained as a scientist. How do you keep track of all those interactions? To get a simple overview of ecology the idea is to scale it down using a hula hoop. A rope circle with 3 foot diameter will work as well.

Place the hula hoop on the ground somewhere and study what you see. Using a paper or a note book record everything.

  • Start by recording the date and time of your exploration.
  • Then describe the weather. Is it sunny, cloudy, or somewhere in between. Guestimate (technical term 🙂 ) the percent of the sky that any clouds cover. Record the air temperature.
  • Now look at the airspace immediately above the hula hoop. Is it shaded by trees or something else? Is part of it shaded and part not, and what percent?
  • Look at the ground cover. What is it? Is it grass? Is it something else? Is it a mixture? Again, describe the percentage of the mixture. Is the ground cover tall or short?
  • Now, look for any animals that you may see within the bounds of the hula hoop. List them by name and or description. For example: you may see two or more variations of something we classify as ant. Look for everything you see. Count every individual in a group.
  • Finally, move some of the ground cover away and examine the soil in three or so places within your hula hoop circle. Describe it. Is it dark and moist? Is it sand, like my yard? Take the soil temperature in each place. If you want, you can get a soil moisture meter from a garden store and measure the moisture content. Garden stores will also have soil pH kits as well.
  • Look for any living organisms within the soil. List, describe, and count each type. For each of these entries you can draw pictures of what you see.

Once you have completed your observations can you make connections between what you have described and the environment? What factors seem to have the most effect on what is happening? What other connections can you make?

You have just described a micro system within your yard, park or garden. This is a micro ecosystem. All of the parts are somehow connected to each other. This can be extended out to the rest of your yard and your neighborhood.

If you are doing this as part of a homeschool activity you can have members of your homeschool community do these in their yards and compare the results. How do the observations change for different areas of your town? You can repeat these steps at different times of the day and of the year.

If you want to do this activity several times, record the location of your hula hoop locations so that you can study the same areas again and learn whether they change their ecology throughout the year.

This is an activity that is suitable for kids about 12 years and older. It can be simplified or expanded to better meet the needs of a variety of ages. If you have questions about how to do this feel free to ask in the comments or to email me at bchase dot 1128 dot edu @ gmail dot com.

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