Create Your Own Ecosystem

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Family-EcosystemA small-scale ecosystem can have a big effect on how your family sees the environment. Sunday is Earth Day. Create the self-containing ecosystem out of recycled materials, and see a little piece of the Earth evolve right before your eyes.

You'll need:
Three clear and cleaned two-liter bottles
Clear packing tape
Aquarium or pea gravel, rinsed
Rubber band
Four-inch square piece of netting or screen
Mustard, rye, or alfalfa seeds
Elodea or other aquarium plants
Duck weed
Crickets, pill bugs or earth worms
Two snails and two small fish such as small pond fish or guppies
Dead leaves or small sticks

Most materials can be found at a pet store. Look for plant seeds in the gardening department of any store, especially health-food stores.

Family-Ecosystem DrawingDirections:
Remove the labels from the bottles, and cut the top off of one (about one third of the bottle should remain). Cut the bottom and top off of the second bottle creating a coupler. Cut the bottom off of the third bottle, but keep both pieces.

Use the first bottle (the one with the top cut off) to form the bottom floor of the ecosystem. Fill the bottom with one inch of aquarium or pea gravel, and fill the bottle nearly to the top with water. Allow the water to sit in the bottle for twenty-four hours in a shallow pan so all the chlorine evaporates out. Place the fish and snails in the water along with the aquatic plants and duck weed. The duck weed will float on the top of the water. The fish and snails will live off the plants and algae living in the water. Plants also keep oxygen in the water and filter it.

Using the top half of the other bottle, cover the nozzle with netting and secure it with a rubber band. Fill the bottle with one inch of gravel and two inches of soil. Plant the seeds and allow them to sprout before you add your insects of choice. When your bugs are at home, add some dead leaves or sticks to the top layer. They will decompose.

To put the ecosystem together, replace the bottom of your top bottle so that the edges fit securely together with packing tape. Place the taped bottle into the coupler piece and secure it with more packing tape. Place that on top of the water-filled bottle. Secure with packing tape.

Keep your ecosystem in a well-lit area where sunlight can get to the plants to stimulate photosynthesis. Watch as all the parts of your ecosystem work together to sustain life (and even create new life).

While children are home for summer vacation, this little ecosystem in a bottle is a great learning tool. Teach your children about photosynthesis, food chains, and how everything works together to sustain life.

Source and photos: Scribbit

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