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Earth Day Activity: Build a Biosphere in a Bottle

by Jo Anne Vasquez

Bioshphere in a BottleDid you know that everything on our Earth is connected in some way? We have living things (plants, animals (yes you are an animal) and organisms (some so tiny you can’t even see them). All these living things need to interact with non-living things such as soil, water and sunlight. Together all these living and non-living things interact with one another to create a system to sustain life. The term “ecosystem” means an “ecological” system. An ecosystem can be as big as our whole Earth or as small as a pond. Think about it, a pond is an ecosystem where you find food, water and shelter for the animals that live in and around the pond, People who study ecosystems are called “Ecologists.”

EcosystemAs we celebrate Earth Day this year we are indeed celebrating our big ecosystem that we live in and all the smaller ecosystems all over our planet. How would you like to be an ecologist and create your very own ecosystem to study? It’s easy. Here is how you can make an ecosystem in a bottle.

You will probably need an adult to help you cut the bottle because that may be a bit difficult. Here are materials you will need to gather:

  • Two 2-liter soda bottles,
  • One bottle cap
  • Duck tape
  • One piece of heavy cotton string cut about 6 inches long
  • Distilled water
  • 8- 1- cm of planting soil
  • And a couple of small plants with the roots attached.
  • Optional, pill bugs (Isopods) worms, or a land snail.

What to do:

  • Step 1:  Cut the two 2-liter bottles as shown above.
  • Step 2:  Using duct tape, connect the three pieces as shown in the middle picture.
  • Step 3:  Drill or punch a hole in the bottom lid and place a cotton string through it.
  • Step 4.  Fill the top portion with 8 – 10 cm of planting soil.
  • Step 5.  Fill the bottom portion with a “pond: of distilled water so the cap is just above the water line.
  • Step 6:  Plant two or three small plants in the soil.
  • Step 7.  (Optional) add some pill bugs, worms or a snail to you bottle.

Now you have created a complete ecosystem as your Earth Day project. Keep a log and record every day what happens inside your very own ecosystem. And as you are out walking or playing, look around and see how many “ecosystems” you can find.

Happy Earth Day!

Jo Anne Vasquez, Ph.D. is Vice President of Educational Practice at Helios Education Foundation.

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