Rachel Benditt's picture
BioCube: Sixth graders realize the abundance and diversity of life
Rachel Benditt
April 3, 2013 - 4:52pm

Picture a cubic foot.

Each edge is longer than the length of your foot, but probably shorter than your forearm.  Each side is about the area you take up when standing with your feet together.

Seems pretty small, right? But wait, add on that third dimension, and all of a sudden you need seven and a half gallons of milk to fill up your cubic foot.

Ok, so we’ve got a cubic foot. It’s not tiny, but not really big either.

Now stick it in a pond. Make sure the edges of your cubic foot are brightly colored and the sides are clear so that you can see what’s going on inside.

For those of you who have been to NatureBridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, lets stick our cubic foot in Rodeo pond, where you may have caught and identified pond critters.

The top sticks an inch or two above the surface of the pond, and the bottom bit is sunk into the mud.

What’s in there?

How much life can be found in one cubic foot of Rodeo Pond?

This week and next, NatureBridge students are working with National Geographic photographer David Liittschwager and Smithsonian biologist Chris Meyer to answer this question as part of a project called BioCube.

Sixth graders from Vinewood Elementary kicked off the project on Tuesday with the task of determining the best spot to place the BioCube.

“The students collected samples from the pond and are identifying the different organisms,” said Vinewood teacher Kim Hudson. “They’re trying to find the most diverse place in the whole area.”

When they first looked at the pond, some of the students said they didn’t think they’d find many critters at all.

“I didn’t expect to find that much,” said Luke, one of the sixth graders, “but I actually saw a lot.”

“I thought it would be kinda hard to find things,” added classmate Jordan.

These doubts were quickly put to rest as the students scooped a wide variety of macroinvertebrates out of the pond.

Caroline, Heather, and Mallory had just taken their first scoop of pond material and swished it gently into a Pond Collection Device (known to the rest of us as an upside-down Frisbee) when they saw their first pond critters.

“There’s a bug,” said Caroline.

“There’s a little worm thing there,” Mallory added.

“Oh yeah, look!” “Ooooh, cool!” The girls’ exclamations pile on top of one another as they shared their excitement.

Later, examining the critters they had caught, the three sixth graders used a guide to identify one of their invertebrates.

“We found two of the same specimen,” Caroline said. “This one looks like it has three little pinchers at the end; this one looks like it only has two. They both have six legs. It has these antenna-like things on its head.”

“I think it’s a predacious diving beetle,” said Mallory, holding up the identification card.

They marked the beetle’s identification and the location where they found it in their field journals, then gently returned the beetle to the pond before hurrying off to catch and examine more critters.

At the end of the day, the students gave recommendations for prime spots for the BioCube and took with them an experience that opened their eyes to the abundance of life in every nook and cranny of nature. 


Nicole's picture

Our students had a blast and are eagerly exploring ways to incorporate the cube into our studies!
destiny's picture

That was so fun !!!!