One of the activities that is very common for teaching diversity or microbial diversity is the candy activity. In this activity, a sample community of candy is explored and used (and later, eaten) to make measures of diversity in a simple (and delicious) form. I elected to use jellybeans, since the known diversity would help us do this quickly. In this case, our richness is 49 (if your species definition includes flavor).
Special thanks to my young teaching assistants, who helped set up this activity. This required that we (1) go through each of the calculations, deciding on a species definition, measuring total richness in our samples, and estimating richness using Chao1 or rarefaction; and we (2) made samples for our class consisting of 40 jellybeans per cup. I stacked the cups in pairs so that for 65 students, we had 36 samples of 40 jellybeans each.
I ended up using Ramona’s (8 yo) sheet as an example for the class of one way to measure total richness in your sample. Then we talked about why total richness is always an underestimate, and used two examples of estimated richness, which use more (Chao1) and all (Rarefaction) of the data in the sample.
This activity was fun for us to set up, and the students loved it!
Here is the worksheet I used to hand out to the class, so that others might incorporate this activity into their microbial diversity courses, too.