How can you make an ecosystem in a container?

Grade Levels
K - 2nd
Formats Included
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15 pages
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  1. Nature and Environment PBL Activities - 5 First Grade Life Science Hands-On PBLs These are 5 NGSS-aligned problem-based learning activities for young scientists in grade 1 (but also appropriate for students in grades K and 2). Students, with the help of peers and their teacher, design investigations
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This is an NGSS-aligned problem-based learning activity for young scientists in grade 1 but is also appropriate for students in grades K and 2. Students, with the help of peers and their teacher, design an investigation in life science to answer the big question: How can you make an ecosystem in a container? The activity helps students gain confidence with the PBL approach and provides opportunities for collaborative learning.

The activity contains 4 PDF files: reproducible student card, detailed teacher support document (8 pages), icon image, and document with supplemental PBL tips (4 pages).

1 -- Individual student cards guide students through the activities. Each card poses a big question that students use as a jumping off point to create their own questions to be tested in small, collaborative groups. (physical student cards for multiple students are available; contact

2 -- Complete teacher support document offers specific suggestions to help students to develop a test question, construct a test, draw conclusions, and show and share conclusions. Each teacher document relates the activity to relevant NGSS standards (DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs) and also suggests a connection to math and ELA standards.

3 -- The icon image may be projected or printed out to provide a visual starting point for the activity.

4 -- A supplemental document on using PBLs (Enriching the PBL Experience with EdTechLens Jump Cards) is also included.


-- Working with students to develop a big question

-- Suggestions for enriching prior knowledge

-- Helping students work through the details of how to develop a question they can test

-- Running the test (materials, timing, location, specifying observations, recording data, etc.)

-- Drawing conclusions

-- Encouraging students to present findings and show what they learned

-- Next Generation Science Standards met while completing the student investigation.

-- Connections to CC Mathematics and English Language Arts are also included.

Sections in Student Card

-- Big question -- Ask a question you can test

-- Record results of your investigation -- Test your question -- Draw conclusions -- Show what you learned


K-LS1-2 Students determine things plants and animals need to survive in an ecosystem, including using traits that are passed down from parents to offspring.  


SEP - Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence

DCI - LS1.B Growth and Development of Organisms

CCC - Patterns

Connect to Mathematics - 1.NBT.C.4

Connect to English Language Arts - RI.I.10


Background information that may be useful in assessing and supplementing prior knowledge before beginning this activity can be found in an EdTechLens unit titled Ecosystems - Food and Energy from the Sun and Humans in the Rainforest, also available on this site.


-- Lessons, units, graphic organizers, primary sources, and more activities are also available from EdTechLens. View our Contents List by searching this site for Ellen’s  Content List. Learn more about her work at

©EdTechLens – Usage of any material, including text and media, in this lesson pack is illegal except for use by the single teacher or home user who has purchased it. Please do not share with another user or online. Any other use will be considered a violation of copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Total Pages
15 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs. Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.


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