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WETLANDS ARE WONDERFUL
Grades 4-6

Overview

This lesson provides the students with a basic overview of the characteristics of wetlands. It is an introductory lesson that defines terms and gives examples of different types of wetlands. The hands-on activity reinforces the different parts of the wetlands, and provides a working model of a wetland. In addition, it serves as a jumping off point for stewardship, when students are asked to "destroy" their model wetlands based on a real-life scenario.

ITV Series
A World in Our Backyard: A Wetlands Education and Stewardship Program (Environmental Media)
Part I: A World in Our Backyard (staff development program)
Part II: Fabulous Wetlands (Hosted by Bill Nye)

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
Materials
The following materials are needed for each PAIR of students participating:

Pre-Viewing Activities
Hold a discussion about the students' ideas of what a wetland is, and any wetlands that they are familiar with. List on the board different names they know for wetlands and any purposes they know of that wetlands serve.
Note to the teacher: Preview video A World in our Backyard, Part I for staff development.

Focus Viewing
The focus for viewing is a specific responsibility or task(s) that the students are responsible for doing, or after seeing the video, to focus and engage students' viewing attention. Say, "You are going to watch a video that gives some information about wetlands." To give students a specific responsibility while viewing say, "Watch the video to learn the characteristics of wetlands and to see what purpose they serve. In this first part, listen for three other names for wetlands."

Viewing Activities
BEGIN the video Fabulous Wetlands at the title frame. PAUSE after Bill says "swamp, marsh, bog." Check off bog, swamp and marsh from their list on the board, or add it if it is not already there. Say, "Now listen to learn where wetlands can be found." RESUME video. PAUSE after Bill says, "There's probably one in your neighborhood." Find out if any students now know if they live near a wetland. Say, "As you watch this next part, carefully watch to see what wetlands look like." RESUME tape. PAUSE after Bill comes out of the water in a wetsuit, before he says anything. Have a discussion and call attention to the physical attributes of wetlands (water, lots of vegetation, muddy, etc.) Say, " In this next section, Bill Nye will be telling you the attributes that make a piece of land a wetland. Watch to find the three words he uses to describe a wetland." RESUME video. PAUSE after he says, "wait, wait. wait." Write the three words - hydric (soil), hydrophytic (flora), and hydrophytes - on the board. Call attention to the common root, and discuss what this root word means. Now that they have an idea of what wetlands are and look like, brainstorm some possibilities for land use. Then say, "Now Bill will show you a bad use for a wetland that is very common. Watch to learn why it is a bad use of our wetlands." RESUME video. PAUSE after Bill says, "It's going to be gone." Hear their answers to the question, and brainstorm better uses for a wetland. Also discuss alternatives for parking. Say, "The next part of the video gives five benefits of wetlands. Watch to see if you can identify all five." RESUME video. PAUSE after he says, "Are you with me?" List the five benefits on the board: detritus for other plants and animals, acts as a sponge, home to wildlife, filters out some pollution, flood control. Say, "The final part of this video gives an important reason why we should try to save our wetlands. Listen to hear this reason." RESUME video. STOP at the end of the video. Discuss the main reason to work to save wetlands (almost 1/2 are already gone) and generate ideas of how they might help save wetlands.

Post-Viewing Activities
Following the viewing of the tape and the discussions, students will now make a model of a wetland. Before they start, they need to know the meaning of upland (the area above the wetland). If this has not been covered in previous lessons, mention it now. Have them, in pairs, make a model wetland in the roasting tray. Use the modeling clay for upland, sloping it towards the middle of the pan, using about 1/3 of the space. Next, cut the florist foam about three inches wide, and butt this tightly to the modeling clay. It may help to put a little clay over the seam where the florist foam meets the clay. The idea is to make this part as waterproof as possible. The remainder of the pan will be a small pond. Let the students decorate their wetlands with evergreen sprigs, twigs, pine cones, etc., to make the wetland esthetically pleasing. Q-Tips dipped in brown paint make excellent cattails.

Using pond life and wetland books as guides, have the students find pictures of animals that frequent wetlands or use them as habitats, and using the paper, make small replicas to add to their wetlands. They can attach them to popsicle sticks or toothpicks to make them stand out of the water.

Once the wetlands are assembled, ask them what they think will happen if it rains on their wetlands. Have them use the watering cans to gently "rain" on their upland, and observe what happens. (The water will run quickly down the upland, but will be absorbed in the "wetland". Some will eventually leech into the pond.) They may continue this rain until their pond is filled.

This is a good point to put the wetlands aside and continue with other activities having to do with learning about wetlands. Eventually, however, comes the final part of the lesson. Before you start this, have them write about their wetlands. Focus particularly on how it looks to them and the feeling they have about it. Have them imagine they are in it for a day, and what would they do. Then, give each pair a different real life scenario of things that humans have done to wetlands: make it into a parking lot, turn it into a toxic dump, put condos on it, drain it and build on it, take away 1/2 of it for building, dredge a channel through it for access to the lake, etc. Give them appropriate materials to accomplish their "development" (i.e. aluminum foil makes a good parking lot, salt is a good toxic to dump, houses can be just building blocks, use a knife to remove part of it, felt can become a beautiful lawn, etc.).When they have finished "developing" their wetland, have them do some more writing about how they feel about the "progress" that has been made in their wetland. Have them describe how they would spend a day in their wetlands now, and how they feel about it. Finally, give them more water and have them "rain" on their development. Most will experience flooding, the animals that were not moved out by the development will most likely be washed away, and those that used salt (particularly if you color it), will notice that it has gone into the lake. Now they get to do the final writing about how they feel about their wetland now, how they would like to spend a day in it, and their feeling about preserving wetlands.

Once the students have experience with wetlands, have them formulate questions they could ask people in their community concerning their attitudes towards wetlands, and wetlands vs. development. Have them complete the survey, and analyze their results. Have them make appropriate graphs of their findings. (The type of graph will depend on the types of questions they asked.)

Action Plan
Students can present their survey results to appropriate town, county or state boards.

Students will most likely come up with their own action plan after the hands-on activity they just experienced. Some will follow Bill Nye's suggestions and write to their congressmen and women or the officials in their town.

It seems essential to visit a real wetland, and the beginning of this video is for teachers about using wetlands as a teaching tool.

There are usually local or state officials that will come and speak to your class about wetlands.

Students may want to "adopt" a wetland, writing to local officials about keeping it pure, and visiting it on a regular basis to see the changes.

Extensions
Language Arts: In addition to the responsive writing and letter writing already mentioned in the lesson, try creative writing. Have the students be an animal or a plant in a wetland before, during and after development.

Social Studies: The social studies ramifications of a wetland study are endless, particularly if the class decides to "adopt" a wetland. Meeting with public officials who protect wetlands, as well as loggers and developers, is an excellent lesson in civic responsibility. Also, discussions about what a wetland is are interesting. It really is not as simple as Bill Nye makes it out to be. Mapping important wetlands in your area is a good lesson in geography.

Art: There are so many animals and plants in the wetlands, and so many different names for wetlands, that an alphabet book done in watercolors is really effective.

Science: To demonstrate the filtering ability of a wetland, take some dirt and put it in a pan, tilt the pan, and let water run down in. Then take a plot of grass and dirt taken from the edge of a wetland, and pour "dirty" water trough the grass. The liquid that comes out will be considerably cleaner that what you poured on it, in spite of the fact that it ran through dirt!

Master Teacher: Michele Lawler


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