Grade Level: Grades 5-9
Overview: Students will visit two different wetlands over a two-month period, collect data and specimens, and design a timeline/field guide that represents the wetlands.
- compare/contrast two different wetlands every two weeks over a span of 2 months.
- use measuring skills to collect data about the wetlands.
- identify, draw, and label 4 of the collected specimens.
- design and create a timeline/field guide that represents the two wetlands.
Wetland Comparison should be done after wetland basics (characteristics, types of wetlands, plant and animal species, etc.) have been introduced to students. See Wetlands for more detailed information.
Resource books that refer to wetlands, field guides on waterfowl, pond life, etc.
- Waders/boots/appropriate field day clothing
- Collecting nets and sieves (coffee cans with fine wire mesh work well.)
- Holding containers such as plastic shoe boxes, pails, etc.
- Hand-held microscopes (1per student)
- Dissecting scopes (1 per group of 4 students)
- Thermometers (1 per group)
- Meter sticks (1 per group)
- LCD digital camera (if available)
- Wetland Comparison Project Sheet/Journal/recording sheets
Students' Prior Knowledge:
- Basic information about the types of wetlands - See Background Information.
- How to use a thermometer to measure temperature and meter sticks to measure water level
- How to use a dissecting scope
- How to label drawings
- Familiar with the purpose and structure of field guides and timelines and how to use them
- Knowledge of field day schedules, rules, procedures, etc.
Prior to Field Day:
- Scout out areas where two wetlands can be compared. It's handy if the wetlands are in close proximity to each other.
- Collect the nets, sieves, containers, trays, etc. ahead of time.
Back at the Classroom:
A discussion of keeping nature as it is, with little disturbance, should take place before students begin the Wetland Comparison Project. The purpose of the project is to carefully study, not destroy, the diverse wetland ecosystems.
Wetland Comparison Project
The Wetland Comparison Project involves comparing two wetland types (I and IV) every two weeks over a two-month period. Students will visit each wetland approximately 4 times. The time frame for this project is mid-late April until the end of May.
During each visit, students will:
- collect water samples and other living organisms for further classroom study.
- measure the temperature and water level for each wetland.
- record dates, location, and observations about plant and animal life.
- take 3-4 pictures with camera that best describe the wetland. If cameras are not available, students may draw their observations.
After each visit, students will:
- use dissecting scopes and pond life field guides to observe and lean about the collected specimens.
- Identify, draw, and label 4 of the collected specimens.
- Compile dates, locations, observations, drawings, photographs, water level and temperature measurements into a timeline/field guide format that shows the changes of two wetlands over a period of time.
IMPORTANT: The end product could be quite open-ended, depending on the grade level and students' abilities. Older students may show great creativity in organizing their information. However, younger students may need some guidance. A template showing where each piece of information or drawing/photograph should be placed may be helpful.
At the Wetland:
- Divide students into groups of 4 and number the groups.
- Each group needs the following:
- Parent volunteer
- Wetland Comparison Project sheet/recording sheets
- Camera (optional)
- Nets, sieves, containers, pails, etc.
- Meter stick
- Designate an area of the wetland to each student group.
- The students are allowed 15-20 minutes to collect datafrom that area. The data includes observations, pictures or drawings, temperature, water level, and specimens. Time allowed may need to be flexible.
- After data collecting, have students record their group number, the location, and wetland type on their containers of specimens, recording sheets, and journal. This will help students stay organized once they return to the classroom.
- Move to the other wetland type and repeat the process.
Back at the Classroom:
- Student use dissecting scopes and field guides to identify the living things they collected.
- Students must identify, draw, and label 4 of the specimens.
- Students will compile the data in a timeline/field guide format.
After two weeks, students will return to the same designated area and collect more data. The same procedures will take place during and after each visit to the wetlands. As the weeks pass, noticeable changes will take place.
What Students Will Observe:
Type I Wetland:
During the first visit, students will observe that Type I wetlands do not hold a large amount of water. There may be very little vegetation in cropland areas. The temperature of the water will be cold. Small numbers of invertebrates will be seen and collected.
As the weeks pass, students will observe many changes. The water level, which was low during the first visit, will be even lower now. Warmer temperatures help evaporate some of the water. There may be a crop planted in the area surrounding the wetland. The temperature of the water will have become warmer. The warm water encourages invertebrates to become active. There may be large numbers of insects in the water. This is an excellent source of food for waterfowl, which may be more visible now than earlier in the project.
Type IV Wetland:
The first visit to the Type IV wetland may surprise students. Some Type IV wetlands in mid-April are still frozen. There's very little activity. Students may also realize how important Type I wetlands are for returning ducks.
As the weeks pass, the ice will melt. The water will be warm up and the invertebrates will become numerous here. The water depth may be quite deep.
Through this project, students will gain a better understanding of the roles different wetlands play in the life cycles of many organisms. The time line/field guide will show the dramatic changes two wetlands undergo during a relatively short period of time. It is these changes that make wetlands one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth.