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Ecosystem in a Box

Updated on February 9, 2015

Ecosystem in a Box

I am a Geography teacher based in Oxford, UK and I always love to find new creative ways to stimulate and extend my students. During a year 7 Humanities project, we did an extended homework on 'Ecosystem in a Box'. The project combined geographical knowledge with art and literacy.

The task was for the students to produce a shoebox containing four different ecosystems: Tundra, Desert, Coral Reef and Deciduous. The results were outstanding! Advantages of the ecosystem in a box project are numerous...

  • It stimulates creativity
  • It is fantastic for visual learners
  • It is enjoyable!
  • It can be done at home over several weeks meaning less time spent on checking individual homework by teachers.
  • This project will extend the G and T through a thorough explanation of each ecosystem that makes use of keywords.

Instructions - Ecosystem in a Shoe Box!

  1. Divide your Shoebox into four sections.
  2. Decide which ecosystems you are going to recreate and label in pencil.
  3. Cover the sides and base of your ecosystems with colors and vegetation that you might find. For example, sand for a desert, blue tissue for the coral reef.
  4. Add trees, sand dunes and any other features that you might find.
  5. Add animals particular to each ecosystem e.g. frogs for a rainforest.
  6. Label each ecosystem with a full explanation.

Ecosystems of the World

Children can recreate and write about four different ecosystems. These are my favorite...

Desert - A hot and dry ecosystem which includes camels, scorpians and cacti. Students can research different deserts such as the Sahara and the Gobi desert.

Tundra - Tundra is a cold ecosystem that is found in Siberia and Alaska.

Coral Reef - The Coral Reef is an ocean ecosystem found around the tropics. Examples of life in the coral reef include sea cucumbers, tropical fish and corals.

Rainforest - The rainforest is a hot and wet diverse ecosystem found in the tropics. Examples include the amazon rainforest and Madagascar.

Rainforest in a Shoe Box

Assessing Students Work

Peer Assessment works extremely well with this type of project. We do a class vote where they have three votes each. A good way to do this is to give three sticky dots per person. The children then move around the room and stick the dots on their three favorite. The one with the most dots at the end receives a certificate or commendation.

You can also have a class discussion to allow pupils to elaborate on why they think the winning ecosystems are the best. It is a good idea to share level descriptors on the board and ask students to say which level they are and why.

Level 4 - Describes all four ecosystems

Level 5 - Explains how the plants and animals in the ecosystems are interdependent and uses keywords correctly e.g. producers, consumers, nutrients.

Level 6 - Gives different opinions on how ecosystems can be used sustainably.

Vote for your Favorite Ecosystem

Which is your Favorite Ecosystem?

See results

Pipe Cleaners for Ecosystems in a Box!

Creative Arts by Charles Leonard Chenille Stem Class Pack, 6 MM x 12 Inch, Assorted Colors, 1000/Box (65610)
Creative Arts by Charles Leonard Chenille Stem Class Pack, 6 MM x 12 Inch, Assorted Colors, 1000/Box (65610)

Pipe Cleaners are great for making trees and plants. Different coloured pipe cleaners can also make animals.


Explanations help with Learning

Alternatives to Ecosystem in a Shoebox

Some children excel more by using ICT, or simply don't have the resources to make an ecosystem in a shoebox. It is a great idea to offer several alternative options to be inclusive and allow children to play to their strengths. Alternatives may include...

  • Power Point Presentation on Ecosystems
  • A website (through Weebly for example)
  • An A3 Poster

Extension Question on Ecosystems

"It is never ok to destroy ecosystems for Money" Discuss

This can allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of sustainability. They can evaluate the issues with reference to specific ecosystems and use their Geography to locate them. Therefore, this question gives students the chance to achieve the highest levels (7 and 8).

Keywords to use for Ecosystems

Decomposers - Recycle nutrients by eating dead material.

Tourism - Visiting another place for fun.

Sustainability - Good for the environment, the future, and local people.

Ecosystem - System of living and non living things working together.

Food Chain - What eats what in an ecosystem? E.g. -Leaf-caterpillar-bird-cat.

Adapt - Change to suit the environment.

Photosynthesis - Plants that make their own food.

Producer - Plants are producers because they produce their own food.

Logging - Cutting down trees

Primary Consumer - A plant eater that eats producers

Tertiary Consumer - A meat eater that eats secondary consumers

What do you think of our Ecosystem in a Shoe Box project?

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    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      this eco system shoebox craft is cool, that reminds me of mr. maker


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