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Ready-Set-Tech: Take a Walk on the Wild Side: A Unit on Ecosystems
Take a Walk on the Wild Side: A Unit on Ecosystems
Exploring a Pond as an Ecosystem | Discovering the Ocean | A Desert Discovery | What Is a Rainforest?

Exploring a Pond as an Ecosystem
An ecosystem is often defined as "a community of organisms living in a particular environment and the physical elements in that environment with which they interact." The elements of an ecosystem interact with each other in some way, and so depend on each other either directly or indirectly. This intricate and often fragile relationship is most easily understood when focusing on a familiar and accessible ecosystem.

In this lesson, students will visit and investigate a pond, record the interdependence of its elements, and create a mural in the classroom as a culminating project.

Phillip Seymour
Phillip Seymour is a nationally recognized education trainer and consultant on visual perception and arts/media curriculum integration. He has taught in the New York City public schools and teaches and trains at national universities and educational institutions. Presently, Phillip is an instructor at New York University and the City University of New York.


Science, Biology, Geography, Social Studies, Technology, Visual Arts and Language Arts

Grade Level: 3-6

Time: 6 hours

Materials: 3-4 computers for student use, one computer with LCD projector, field journals (on-line at AMNH web site ), writing materials, mural paper, construction paper, tempera paint, and digitial camera, if available.








Students will:

•  Identify terms relating to various ecosystems that include aquatic, desert, grassland, arctic, forest, and rain forest

•  Perform group research and give group presentations

•  Learn to research using the Internet

•  Integrate oral, written and visual presentation skills

•  Learn cooperative research skills

•  Explore a particular ecosystem (a pond) and learn about the intricate interdependence of its elements through research and hands-on investigation

•  Create a class mural that exemplifies the ecosystem of a pond

•  Learn the importance of visual representation of information through drawing, downloading, and choosing photographic images.

Web sites:



Teachers can refresh their knowledge of ponds and ecosystems by visiting the following resources

From the American Museum of Natural History:
1) Field guides:

Other great web resources:
1) Introduction to ecosystems:
2) A Pond as an Ecosystem:
htt p ://www.aquahabitat.com/ponds.lakes.ed.html
3) Explore pond life:
4) Student online message board on ponds:
5) Explore a pond:
6) Ecosystem virtual tour:
7) Defining ecosystems:
8) Additional resources:
9) Background info on ecosystems:

Book and Magazine Resources:

Magazine Resource:
American Museum of Natural History Magazine, Biodiversity, It Takes All Kinds to Make a World. Order online:

Good Links to Books:


Brainstorm with the students to find previous knowledge of ecosystems by introducing the various kinds of ecosystems: aquatic, desert, grassland, arctic, forest, and rainforest. Record the students' responses. Show and discuss the following web sites after the initial inquiry. During this introduction, have the students take notes in individual journals, adding to any previous knowledge they have already recorded.

•  http://nationalgeographic.com/
(Ecosystem virtual tour)
•  http://cotf.edu/ete/modules/msese/earthsysflr/biomes.html
(What are biomes or ecosystems?)
•  http://ths.sps.lane.edu/biomes/index1.html
(Different kinds of ecosystems.)
•  http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Laboratory/Biome
(Explores earth's biomes)
•  http://curriculum.calstatela.edu/courses/builders/lessons/
less/biomes/intro biomes.html

Easy introduction to ecosystems.)

Introduction to Ponds: Introduce the concept of a pond as an ecosystem in itself. These web sites are informative and helpful:
• http://42explore.com/pond.htm
(The basics of pond life)
•  http://mbgnet.mobot.org/fresh/lakes/index.htm
(All about ponds & lakes)
•  http://web.ukonline.co.uk/conker/pond-dip/
(Exploring a pond--site created by children)
•  http://naturegrid.org.uk/pondexplorer/pondexplorer.html
(Nice virtual tour)



Have the students break into groups of three or four to begin researching the interdependent elements of a pond. Have them address the following questions:
•  What makes a pond distinct from other bodies of water?
•  What elements exist in the pond? (This would include animal, plant and mineral elements.)
•  How are these elements interdependent?
•  What visual support of your answers are you including in your research?

The class can begin their research with the following student-friendly web sites:
•  www.enchantedlearning.com/biomes/pond/pondlife.stml
(Great site for all pond life research)
•  http://fi.edu/fellows/fellow9/jun99/slideshowtest.htm
(Student-generated slide show of the elements of a pond)
•  http://naturegrid.org.uk/pondexplorer/pond-cross.html
(Super virtual exploration of pond elements)
•  http://bugsurvey.nsw.gov.au/
(Nice explanation of water bugs)
•  http://octopus.gma.org/streams/edge.html
(General cruise through a ponds elements)
•  http://octopus.gma.org/katahdin/pond.html
(Pond life explanations by the season)
•  http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/dlc-me/zoo/zwpmain.html
(Nice site on water and other elements of a pond)
•  http://42explore.com/pond.htm
(Basic intro. to a pond)
•  http://mbgnet.mobot.org/fresh/lakes/index.htm
(Introduction to various elements of a pond)
•  http://web.ukonline.co.uk/conker/pond-dip
(Great student resource for ponds and their elements)
•  http://uen.org/utahlink/pond
(Great resource for all elements of a pond)


After initial research, taking notes, and gathering visual support, the class is prepared to take a trip to investigate a real pond.

Before the trip:
•  Review the groups' research
•  Pages 8&9 in the Biodiversity magazine of the American Museum of Natural History is a good resource
•  Delegate investigations of the pond according to the initial research assignments.
•  Download field guides to help in the study from the American Museum of Natural History web site:
http://amnh.org/nationa l center/ o nline_field_journal/index.html

Add any additional field guides in a similar format as you deem necessary.

Additional activities to explore the elements of the pond such as water depth, underwater viewers, and making a collecting net for specimens can be found on the following web site:
(Collecting pond specimens.)

At the pond site students are asked to explore, discover and record in their field journals. Ask the students to pay attention to the colors of the water and various elements that make up the pond. There is a place in the field guide for drawing the elements the students see. Take photographs as the students go about their activities. This is to record the experience and for display in the school.


After the field trip, the groups should meet, condense their data, and create final reports from the information they researched and the investigative field reports they created. The ora/visual presentation is delivered to the class. The class is asked to take notes as each group presents to gather material on all topics.

Create a large mural outside the classroom or find a visible space in the school. The pond should be drawn and painted according to what the students observed. Photographs can help trigger memories. This should be a sliced view of the pond illustrating its various layers. Have the students cut out the various elements of the pond from construction paper using the colors of the paper and/or paint. These should be placed on the pond mural with proper identification. The mural should have paper, color appropriate, for the bottom muddy layer, blue for the water above the ground level, and appropriate colors representing the sides. Put photographs of the students' trip to the pond on or near the mural.

Some ideas for the pond cutaway can be seen on these sites:
•  http://enchantedlearning.com/biomes/pond/pondlife.shtml
•  http://naturegrid.org.uk/pondexplorer/pond-cross.html

Narrative and literacy engagement: Ask the students to write about ponds in a number of different genres: poems, a letter from a scientist, writing from the point-of-view of an element of the pond, a reporter's description, etc. Post these writings around the mural of the pond.


Each group presents a written/visual and oral/visual report on their study. Evidence of individual contribution to the written report should be evident. The groups and individuals should address questions such as:
•  Why is the pond is considered an ecosystem?
•  What is your supporting evidence? Supporting evidence should be in written, oral, and visual form.
•  What does your particular study contribute to the ecosystem of a pond?
•  What other ecosystems exist in the world?
•  Narrative and literacy contributions regarding learned pond content


Create a pond/ecosystem in your classroom. Look at the following web site and find out how the students can construct a small facsimile of a pond in your classroom for further observational and investigative study:
•  http://octopus.gma.org/turtles/pond.html
(How to create a pond ecosystem in your classroom.)
•  http://teachnet.com/how-to/decor/pond.html
(Bringing a pond into the classroom.)



Other lessons in this ecosystem unit include:
Discovering the Ocean
A Desert Discovery
What Is a Rainforest?


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