Ecosystem in a Bottle Project: An Inquiry-Based Ecological Investigation

Grade Levels
9th - 12th
Formats Included
  • PDF
20 pages
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In this inquiry-based lab investigation, students will create an ecosystem simulation using 2-Liter bottles to explore the cycling of the essential elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen through biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem. Students will need a minimum of two 2-Liter bottles for this project – one to represent an aquatic ecosystem and one to represent a terrestrial ecosystem. Students will work with a partner to design a way to connect these two bottle ecosystems so that nutrients can cycle appropriately and life can be sustained for a month-long period. They will assemble their ecosystems in class and collect daily observations throughout this month. At the completion of their observation month, students will write a report of their findings relating their observations back to what they know about the cycling of nutrients and the interrelationships of organisms.

*NOTE* Do not purchase if you have already purchased my Ecology Unit Bundle or Biology Complete Curriculum Bundle because you already have this product!

Included in the PDF:

  • 10 pages of teacher implementation notes, including accommodations (PDF)
  • 8 pages of student handouts and rubrics (PDF)
  • Sample student work (PDF)

Why should I use this product in my classroom?

I love to use this product because it is every student's favorite from the whole year! It is a truly hands-on experience where they can gain real world experience by applying what they've learned in class to a living, breathing mini-ecosystem. This is one of those investigations that the students never forget!

How does this connect to NGSS*?

This investigation addresses the following standards:

  • HS-LS1-5: Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.
  • HS-LS1-7: Use a model to illustrate that cellular respiration is a chemical process where by the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and the bonds in new compounds are formed resulting in a net transfer of energy.
  • HS-LS2-3: Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
  • HS-LS2-4: Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.

It also incorporates the following science and engineering practices:

  • Ask questions and define problems
  • Plan and carry out investigations
  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Construct explanations and design solutions
  • Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information

Lastly, it connects to the following crosscutting concepts:

  • Cause and effect
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Systems and system models
  • Energy and matter
  • Stability and change

What if I want more?

This product is part of my Ecology Unit bundle. Be sure to check it out by clicking here!

What if I have a question?

Email me at I’d love to answer any questions you have!

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Follow me on TpT, join my email list, or follow me on Instagram. These are the three best ways to keep up with what’s happening at It’s Not Rocket Science!


You may:

  • Use this item for your own classroom, students, or for your own personal use.
  • Buy additional licenses for others to use this product at a discount by visiting your TpT “My Purchases” page.
  • Review this product to recommend others buy it in blog posts, at professional development workshops, or other venues as long as credit is given to my store with a direct link to my store/product.

You may not:

  • Upload this product to any unsecured website or server that other teachers can access for free.
  • Give this product to others without the purchase of an additional license for them (this includes emailing, printing copies, or sharing through a website, cloud or other network.)
  • Copy or modify any part of this document to offer others for free or for sale.

*Note: NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

Total Pages
20 pages
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
1 month
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