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What can you learn about wetlands and why they are important?

Catherine Fraser Riehle ( (ready to use)

Megan Sapp Nelson (

Subject Areas
Information Science, Science

Grade Levels

Unit Keywords
wetlands, pollution, insects, plants, animals, information literacy

Rationale of the Unit
This unit introduces students to the wetlands environment and wildlife. Active participation in the scientific process will increase studentsí awareness and knowledge about these environments as well as the causes and effects of wetlands pollution. After participating in the activities and discussions, students should be aware of the value of wetlands and be encouraged to make personal changes that will challenge pollution where they live.

  INVESTIGATE Go to Topgo to top
Background and Resources
BACKGROUND -- brief overview
Students will gather basic information about wetlands and the sorts of life found in these environments. You may ask them to conduct interviews with family members and adults they know in the community to determine perceptions about pollution and wetlands in their area. Students should be asked to brainstorm about what they already know about wetlands and the causes and effects of pollution.

READINGS -- texts, slides, audio/video
If possible, provide students with local or regional news sources about local or regional wetlands and especially any that describe pollution in these areas. Explain to students the many different ways of producing and accessing information.

Related Indiana Science Standards: 6th Grade
6.2.7 Locate information in reference books, back issues of newspapers and magazines, CD-ROMs, and computer databases.
6.2.8 Analyze and interpret a given set of findings, demonstrating that there may be more than one good way to do so.
6.3.8 Explain that fresh water, limited in supply and uneven in distribution, is essential for life and also for most industrial processes. Understand that this resource can be depleted or polluted, making it unavailable or unsuitable for life.
6.3.13. Identify, explain, and discuss some effects human activities, such as the creation of pollution, have on weather and the atmosphere.
6.3.16 Explain that human activities, such as reducing the amount of forest cover, increasing the amount and variety of chemicals released into the atmosphere, and farming intensively, have changed the capacity of the environment to support some life forms.
6.4.8 Explain that in all environments, such as freshwater, marine, forest, desert, grassland, mountain, and others, organisms with similar needs may compete with one another for resources, including food, space, water, air, and shelter. Note that in any environment, the growth and survival of organisms depend on the physical conditions.

WEB SITES -- sites for exploration and interaction
How to Prevent Wetlands Pollution
About Wetlands (Iowa State)

The National Wetlands Research Center (USGS)
Wetlands (EPA)

  CREATE Go to Topgo to top
Activities and Open-ended problems
Pollution activity. For this activity, you will need: a 10 gallon aquarium, 4-6 gallons of water, household products, a trashcan, and a large spoon. Demonstrate water pollution using an aquarium. First, fill the aquarium with 2-3 gallons of water as "rain" and another 2-3 as "household use." Ask each student to choose one of many common household products (toothpaste, soap, candy wrappers, mouthwash, juice, leaves, chips, Windex) and ask them demonstrate/explain how it could end up in a sewer. Ask students to note: Did the item or product float? Sink? Dissolve? Then, ask students which items or products they could have recycled or thrown in the trash to avoid water pollution. Remove those items individually for disposal or recycling. Discuss the benefits of avoiding pollution, and how it could affect wetlands.

Take your students on a field trip to a wetlands environment. There, ask your students to observe (and document in field notes/notebooks) details about the environment, including wildlife, plants, and any signs of pollution they see. To participate in these activities, you will need: small strainers, notebooks, and measuring tape or yard sticks.

1. Bring strainers, and have students pull them through the water to see if they can observe tiny fish, tadpoles, or water insects. Ask them to draw the plants and animals they find in their notebooks. Later, using field notebooks, give them time to identify as many species as they can.

2. Divide students into groups and ask each group to measure an square area 1 yard x 1 yard. Ask them to count how many different species and plants they can find.

Ask students to write field reports, compiling their notes and observations from the field trip. Using the websites and resources listed in the "Investigate" section as references, students should also describe why they've learned wetlands are important and name at least one way they can prevent pollution.

OPEN-ENDED PROBLEMS -- creative extensions
Web of Life Activity. For this activity, you will need: name tags or pictures and a ball of string. Prepare name tags or pictures that depict various components of the wetlands environment (soil, sun, water, plants, humans, rabbits, crayfish, algae, etc.) Each student should pick a name tag or wetlands component and will "become" that component. Students should sit in a circle to symbolize the ecosystem and food chain. Each student should hold the string to form a web (Start with one wetlands component and use the ball of string to connect to another related component - plants connected to rabbit; plant connected to soil, etc.) Continue until everyone is connected to several people in several ways to show interdependence. Then, remove one component (maybe water, because it was drained). Everyone will feel the "shake" of the string. Discuss how various components affect one another when one component of the web or environment is changed or removed. Ask students to think about what would happen if pollution affected the wetlands environment.

  DISCUSS Go to Topgo to top
Dialogues, Discussions, and Presentations
Ask students to share with a partner one way they've decided they can help avoid pollution.

Lead a discussion on scientific inquiry, highlighting different types of scientists (field researchers, etc.) as well as the different sorts of research they are involved in and produce. Ask students to brainstorm as a group how scientists collect and share data.

Ask students to discuss why pollution happens in the first place. What else, besides wetlands, are polluted? Why does this matter?

  REFLECT Go to Topgo to top
Assessment, Related Questions, and Story of the Unit
Turn in field report and notes

Did students actively take part in the scientific process by performing background research and actively observing and studying the environment?
Is their writing clear and coherent?
Did students articulate an understanding of how living things interact and are related to one another?
Were students able to describe at least one way they can help prevent pollution?
Did they use a variety of information sources? (newspapers, websites, etc.?)

Can students articulate why wetlands environments are important?
Why does pollution occur in the first place?
How can they encourage others to care and take action in preventing pollution and caring for the environment?

Credits & Acknowledgements; Teacher's Guide to Wetlands Activities online at

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