WETLANDS ARE WONDERFUL
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.
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)
Students will be able to:
- list the two defining characteristics of a wetland;
- state the benefits of wetlands to the environment;
- build a model of a wetland, identifying the major parts;
- list different names of wetlands;
- compile and evaluate statistical data of their community's attitude
The following materials are needed for each PAIR of students
- one small aluminum disposable roasting pan
- a piece of florist foam to fill a two to three inch space the entire
width of the pan
- modeling clay or home-made baker's clay - enough to fill about a third
of the pan
- assorted leaves, twigs, pine cones, etc. to simulate wetland vegetation
- paper for students to make small drawings of wetland animals
- crayons or colored pencils
- small popsicle sticks or toothpicks to attach the animals to
- watering cans or tin cans with holes punched in the bottom
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
Note to the teacher: Preview video A World in our Backyard, Part I for staff
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."
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
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
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.)
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.
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
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
Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online