Ecosystem in a Jar lesson plan
Objectives: Be able to define ecosystems and describe how they work
Terms: Water Cycle, Evaporation, Ecosystem, Substrate
Illinois State Science Standards
Kindergarten K-PS3-1. Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface. [Clarification Statement: Examples of Earth’s surface could include sand, soil, rocks, and water] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment of temperature is limited to relative measures such as warmer/cooler.] K-PS3-2. Use tools and materials to design and build a structure that will reduce the warming effect of sunlight on an area.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include umbrellas, canopies, and tents that minimize the warming effect of the sun.]
K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. [Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that animals need to take in food
G11-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.]
G22-LS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow. [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to testing one variable at a time.] 2-LS2-2. Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.*
G33-LS4-3. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include needs and characteristics of the organisms and habitats involved. The organisms and their habitat make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.]
G44-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. [Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.]4-LS1-2. Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on systems of information transfer.] [Assessment Bo
G55-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the idea that matter that is not food (air, water, decomposed materials in soil) is changed by plants into matter that is food. Examples of systems could include organisms, ecosystems, and the Earth.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include molecular explanations.]
What do plants need to survive?Water and a light source for photosynthesis, Carbon Dioxide, nutritional soil
What components of the closed terrarium help the plants thrive?Substrate, water, springtails, clear, airtight containers
How do plants help the ecosystem? The plants provide oxygen and food for the springtails
Why are springtails essential to our closed terrariums? They eat mold from the roots of the plants and add Carbon Dioxide to the container.
Do you think closed terrariums would work in an opaque jar? Why or why not? No, an opaque jar would not allow sunlight to reach the plant, which would disrupt photosynthesis.
How does the water in the closed terrarium mimic the natural water cycle?The water evaporates in the jar, which causes it to condensate. The water put into the container when the terrarium is created is recycled and reused to keep the water and bugs hydrated.
Procedure and details
Layer one: Gravel/ Rocks - This is the drainage layer, giving a place for excess water to sit (use corked dowel rod to even rock layer)
Layer two: Window Screen Mesh cut to size (Purpose: To stop the substrate(soil) from going into the drainage layer (use corked dowel rod to make sure it’s pressed into the sides
Layer three: Substrate
Coco fibre - 1 partSphagnum moss - 2 partsCharcoal - 1/4 partOrchid bark 1/4 partWorm Castings 1/4 part
This mix drains well while holding moisture and providing appropriate nutrients for the plants
Create a high slope toward the back to create a sense of depthGently pat substrate into place with corked dowel rod
Layer four: Add hardscape (Blue slate stone, seiryu stone, red lava rock, black lava rock, dragonstone) - This is like landscaping. It can take a few tries to come up with a layout you like
Layer five: Moss should sit between hardscape pieces and cover the rest of the soil completely (puzzle it in)
Layer six: Small cuttings of terrarium leaf
Layer seven: Use tweezers to shake springtails into your terrarium. Springtails will keep the terrarium clean by eating mold and decaying matter
Layer eight: Spray with distilled water, clean the glass with a microfiber cloth, place your lid on, keep in a bright place, but NOT in direct sunlight
In the end - Take it home and watch it weather and grow and change! If you’re having any problems with your ecosystem in a jar, give us a call and we will try our best to troubleshoot for you.