Learners build and stock an Eco-Column. They monitor its condition for 2 weeks, even after they deliberately "pollute" it to see how ecosystems respond to pollution.
Learners have a great deal of fun building their Eco-Columns. They can choose how to build it, but must have a minimum of 3 layers: aquatic, terrestrial and compost. They must think critically about which organisms they will put in each layer of their Eco-Columns, as this will affect how healthy it remains over the 2 weeks of monitoring.
Learners must work in groups to build their Eco-Columns. They must help each other identify their organisms, monitor, and answer questions. A peer assessment sheet at the end helps them rate their group members on their individual contributions.
Learners must have 10 different kinds of organisms in their Eco-Column. For example, they can have 2 guppies and 2 sword tails as fish in their aquatic layer, but this only counts as 2 different kinds (species).
Learners may have more than 3 layers if they so choose, but three is the minimum.
Coke bottles are suggested, but learners may also use the larger 5l water bottles.
It is a good idea to get material that is already composting for the compost layer.
You can experiment with no air holes if you choose. Also, try "polluting" one of the other layers the next time you run the project and see how it goes.
I use this project for my Grade 10 Life Science class, but it would be suitable for grades 9-12.