Students discover what ecosystems are by exploring the relationships between him/herself, other living things, and the student's environment. Students create and study miniature ecosystems by building a terraqua column - a 2 story soda bottle tower with soil and plants on the top and a water source on the bottom. The terraqua columns will be used throughout the ecology unit for practice with water and soil quality monitoring and with making and recording observations. Later in the unit students can conduct independent investigations with their terraqua columns.
Can define ecosystem and ecology
30 min ecosystem lesson and discussion
20 min build terraqua column frame
20 min add soil, water, and seeds
* I recommend building the terraqua column frame on one day then adding the soil, water, and seeds the following day.
For each group:
For 2-3 groups to share:
For whole class to share:
Understanding ecosystems is the basis for all of the study of ecology. Students are introduced to the idea of an ecosystem by examining his or her interactions with other living things and the environment. The terraqua column that students build becomes the foundation for the following weeks of exploration of water, soil, living things, and the environment.
Bottle Biology contains a wealth of information about the terraqua column project and further directions to explore. Definitely check out the Bottle Basics section to learn about working with soda bottles and also the Terra Column section for everything you wanted to know about building, maintaining, and studying terraqua columns. This site has a much more detailed step-by-step building guide complete with diagrams and troubleshooting.
Terraqua column construction
Filling the Terraqua Column
Create an ecosystem diagram for an animal of your choice. Be sure to include interactions between your animal and other organisms AND between your animal and its environment.
Bottle Biology contains everything you wanted to know about terraqua columns.