Let's Create an Ecosystem


Title: Let's Create An Ecosystem

Author: Cedric Wesley

Organization: Texas A&M University

Topic: Ecosystems

Grade Level: 7th

Time Frame: Four 30-minute class periods.

Purpose: Introduce students to the concept of ecosystems by allowing student to create their own ecosystem in a jar.


Materials: Learning activity game, handouts, one-gallon jars or aquariums (one per class), insects, insect collecting tools and supplies, shovel

Getting Ready: Terms to know: Producer, consumer, decomposer, autotrophic, heterotrophic, saprotrophic, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, ecosystem, habitat, ecotone, landscape

Motivate (Engage): Use the learning activity developed by Dr. J.A. Jackman to introduce trophic levels, functions, and habitats of insects. ( http://entowww.tamu/academic/ucourses/ento489/lessons/#learn)

Activity (Explore): The class will then create an ecosystem in a large container. All the component must be in the ecosystem to work. Use insects collected on school campus.

Safety Tips: Give students boundaries of where they can collect insect

Concept Discovery (Explanation): At this point go into details about the energy and nutrient flow an ecosystem. Start with the sun and a brief explanation of photosynthesis, and then take the students from producers through saprotrophic levels. Explain how an ecosystem is a cycle and how it starts over after the saprotrophic level. Explain ecosystem, habitat, ecotone, and landscape. Give example of each in reference to your school grounds.

Going Further (Extensions): Keep the ecosystem in the class and watch what happens over the entire year; introduce new insects as the seasons change and see what happens.

Closure: Class discussion on their ecosystem with regards to each of the concepts presented in class.

Assessment (Evaluation): Students will tell about their ecosystem with regards to each of the concepts presented in a journal. Students will keep a journal for six weeks. Student will be required to write in their journal at least three days each week describing the changes they observe. Weekly grades will be given for complete journal entries.


Language Arts (journals):

Adapting this activity for younger student can be done by the teacher collecting the insects and setting up the ecosystem for the students and each day they discuss the changes they observe.


Easy Ecosystem...How Can You Make an Ecosystem?

Materials: soil, aquarium, sand, rocks, green plants, twigs and sticks, crawling insects (ants, beetles, caterpillars) earthworms, screen, masking tape


  • Place the soil in the bottom of the aquarium.
  • Add the sand and rocks.
  • Position the green plants so they will be easy for the insects to climb on and under.
  • Add an arrangement of the twigs and sticks.
  • Add the crawling insects and earthworms one at a time.
  • Place the screen on top of the aquarium.
  • Tape around the screen so it stays in place. Watch the insects and plants adapt to the environment. What happens in the ecosystem you created?
  • When you have finished observing the ecosystem, release the insects in the places where you found them.

Explanation:The earth is an ecosystem, an environment of plants and animals living together. In any ecosystem the balance of living things is important. Plants must provide food and oxygen for the animal, and the animal must provide carbon dioxide, a colorless gas, and nutrients for the plant, this process of recycling, or revising, is constant in an ecosystem.

Potter, Jean. John Wiley & Sons Inc., Nature in a Nutshell for kids: over 100 activities you can do in ten minutes or less. New York, 1995.

Iowa State University School IPM suggested curriculum - August 2001

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