How to Make an Ecosystem Model

Written by danielle odom
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How to Make an Ecosystem Model
Kids learn from building their own ecosystems. (Delta del Ebro image by Antoni Traver from

An ecosystem is the interaction of a community of plants and animals with each other and their natural environment. Ecosystems can be found anywhere on earth, the tundra, grasslands, ponds or forests. Creating a miniature ecosystem, a model of the real thing, is a powerful learning tool for young kids. As they research the project, they will learn not only about the individual animals, but also about plants, soil, rocks, light conditions, even human interaction--and how everything fits together. Older students can take on much more difficult projects involving real animals. But all types of models make good science fair projects.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Box or aquarium
  • Pens, markers, crayons
  • Pictures of animals and plants (or live plants), plastic animals
  • Glue
  • Modelling clay
  • String or fishing line
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Choose the ecosystem you are going to represent. If you are using live examples of plants, choose a nearby ecosystem.

  2. 2

    Research the animals, plant life soil, rocks, sunlight conditions and other elements that are part of that ecosystem and how the organisms and environment interact with one another to function as a unit.

  3. 3

    Create the background or the landscaping for your the model. If you are doing an ocean or pond, you could paint the background to look like water. A desert would be sandy with bright sun.

  4. 4

    Colour the pictures of plants and animals that you will use in the model. You can use photos for a more realistic look, or plastic animals. You may want to collect small branches to make trees and glue grass from your yard. Use the modelling clay for rocks and to adhere plastic animals to the bottom of the box.

  5. 5

    Complete the background with rocks and trees to suit your ecosystem and place the animals. Cut the picture animals out and stand them in the proper place in the box. Use a ball of clay behind them to make them stand. You can use fishing line to create the illusion that fish are floating or birds flying in the air by securing the line to the top and bottom of the box and attaching the animal. You can add arrows to show how the plants and animals interact, perhaps adding text on 3-by-5 cards taped to the front edge of the box

Tips and warnings

  • To build a live ecosystem, use the aquarium and place live examples of plant and animal life into the tank.
  • Always supervise children when using glue and scissors.
  • Live ecosystems can be simple or complex, requiring an appropriate level of planning. Always ensue the animals are cared for and fed.

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