Ecology Museum Project Based Learning (PBL) Unit About Ecosystems & Adaptations

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151 pages
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What educators are saying

Will absolutely be using again for our ecosystems and adaptations unit. The kids really enjoyed the museum aspect of it. Thank you!



Your students will be invited to join a team of ecologists who are building an ecology museum right in your classroom. The museum will teach other students about how living things survive in their ecosystem by interacting with other living things, and nonliving things. As the Museum Director, you will guide your team of ecologists through four project phases in preparation for the museum grand opening. Your science unit on ecosystems, adaptations, and interdependent relationships will come to life with the interactive project based learning (PBL) unit.



Phase 1 - Ecology Design Team Certification: Your students will read an article about biomes & ecosystems (included) to build background knowledge, then answer several questions to demonstrate their foundational understanding of ecology.

Phase 2 - Design Your Exhibit: Your students will select an ecosystem within one of the twelve most prominent biomes. Their research log will guide them as they use teacher-provided books, and read articles from suggested websites about the ecosystem’s location, plant cover, terrain, climate, and threats. Students will then apply their knowledge to create an exhibit that shows a bright & colorful panoramic view of their ecosystem, along with a fact card highlighting the information they find most interesting.

Phase 3 - Make Your Exhibit Interactive: Students will complete a second research log about a specific animal species that lives in the ecosystem they’ve researched. Their research log will guide them as they use teacher-provided books, and read articles from suggested websites about the animal’s ability to thrive in its ecosystem, its group survival mentality, how natural selection plays a role for the species, and how an imbalance in the ecosystem would impact life for the species. Students will then apply their knowledge to create a popsicle stick puppet of the animal species, which can be used to analyze if the species’ adaptations are beneficial in other environments.

Phase 4 – Museum Grand Opening: Students will attend the Ecology Museum grand opening. During their visit, they will learn about the other ecosystems their classmates researched. Students will spend extra time at two exhibits as they complete an adaptations analysis activity which challenges them to determine whether the adaptations of the animal they researched would help that animal species survive in two foreign ecosystems.



NGSS and ELA Standards Alignment Outline: Standards based grading is made easy with this detailed standards alignment outline. This PBL unit was written with third grade NGSS standards in mind, and will help your students learn about the following core ideas:

  • LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
  • LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior
  • LS4.C: Adaptation
  • LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

Rubrics with student-friendly language have been provided to help students self-reflect on their thoroughness and understanding of these core ideas. An additional copy of each rubric is included to make providing teacher feedback quick, easy, and consistent.

This simulation also aligns with nine third grade language arts standards for writing and reading informational text. For a full list of standards, please view the preview above.

Teacher Guide: A detailed 14 page guide to support you during each step of a successful project based learning unit. This teacher guide includes:

  • Quick prep checklist to get you organized before the project begins
  • Recommended books & websites lists
  • Detailed supply lists for each project phase
  • Teacher steps for each project phase
  • Intervention & enrichment ideas for each project phase

Student Guide: A ready-to-bind 55 page printable guide that walks students through each phase of building their ecology museum. This guide includes:

  • A project timeline to support student time management
  • Easy-to-read student instructions for each step of this research project
  • Research logs with guiding questions for each topic
  • Checklists for multi-step portions of the project
  • Rubrics for student self-assessment
  • Separate, yet identical rubrics for summative teacher assessment

Additional Printables: Six printable pages that should be kept separate from the student guide. These printables will help your students create a polished exhibit displaying the ecosystem and animal they research. Printables include:

  • Recommended websites list
  • Ecosystem location map
  • Animal species fact card
  • Grid paper to scaffold popsicle stick animal puppet creation
  • Exhibit feedback cards for the ecology museum grand opening

Sample Ecology Museum Project: A complete 59 page project sample ready for you to print and share with your students. Perfect for boosting student independence, self-directed learning, and painting clear expectations of work quality throughout this project based learning unit. The taiga biome is used for the ecosystem portion, and the gray wolf is used for the animal adaptations portion of this sample project.

Select A Biome Slides: Thirteen full-color slides to provide your students with visual background knowledge as they select the biome & ecosystem they will research in phase 2 of this project (PDF and PowerPoint format included).

  • Vibrant stock photo of each ecosystem
  • Easy-to-read biome label on each slide
  • Printable slide with all 12 biomes for intervention support

Museum Grand Opening Slides: Two full-color slides to help transform your classroom into a beautiful Ecology Museum on the culminating grand opening day (PDF and PowerPoint format included).



♥ “This is my favorite unit I have purchased! The organization of this unit has made it so easy to implement in my classroom. I am using it for not only science, but reading and writing as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this incredible resource!” - Emily T.

♥ “Amazingly comprehensive! We study ecosystems each year and usually do an animal/habitat report to go with it, but this is taking it to the next level and will create so much more buy-in for my third graders! I love that she included a sample project, too... literally, everything you need is included, even suggested websites and books.” - Cassanfra F.

♥ “So thorough and rigorous for kids. They loved showing their museum exhibits to their kinder buddies this year! Thanks!!” - Matestra Cafe Teaches

♥ “This is an incredibly thorough resource, very well thought out and includes everything you'll need (and more) to do this project successfully.” - Elena S.


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Total Pages
151 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
1 month
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.


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