What are the essentials living things need to survive? Simply put, there are five basic necessities: sunlight, water, nutrients, shelter, and air. Those essential items are found within ecosystems, which are made of both living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components that interact with each other. Using this knowledge you can create a tiny ecosystem from materials right in your own backyard!
Here are the materials you’ll need to create a mini ecosystem:
Bug collecting container or mason jar
Weeds or plants (with roots)
Fallen branches and twigs
Begin by collecting soil and a few small pebbles to make the base of your ecosystem. Place these items at the bottom of your container or jar. Add small weeds or plants that you find in the grass – be sure to include the roots as well, or the plant will not survive. Next, collect some fallen twigs, leaves, and bark to create hiding spaces and food for your new residents. If you’re going to add insects to your ecosystem, please be gentle with them. Ants, snails, worms, and woodlice (pill bugs) are easy to keep because they are decomposers and will eat any dead plant material you provide.
Ensure that your ecosystem is getting adequate water, sunlight, and air circulation to ensure both living and non-living components can grow and thrive. Using a spray bottle to water your ecosystem will ensure that you don’t drown any plants or insects, as the container cannot drain. Create holes in the top of your lid to ensure there is sufficient air circulation and leave your container or jar near a windows or outdoors so that it gets enough sunlight. If you notice any of the plants or twigs are getting low, make sure to top them off so your inhabitants have enough food!
Now that you have created a little ecosystem of your own, it’s time to observe. Create a journal entry every day to record your observations: are there any new creatures? Have the plants grown? Has anything been eaten? Your journal entries can be written words, drawings, or photographs. Be creative!
See how long you can keep your ecosystems running smoothly! If it looks like any of your plants or insects are struggling, determine what element – air, food, water, light, shelter – may be missing.
We’d love to see your ecosystem in a jar and hear about your observations. Share your photos with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Be sure to tag @yourriverwood so we can see your creations!