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Project Playbook: Educator Edition

Pop Bottle Ecosystem

Model and observe ecosystem interactions with living and nonliving things.


An ecosystem is a community of organisms living within the same environment. For this project, kids will build a thriving ecosystem they can put in the window at home. Add a little fishy friend and this project relies on you daily to keep the ecosystem healthy and balanced.


  1. Green plants are autotrophs, or producers, which means they make their own food from sunlight.
  2. The greatest number of plant and animal species are found in the rainforest biome.
  3. Oxygen currently makes up about 21 percent of the gases in the planet’s atmosphere

❏ Empty pop bottle
❏ Potting soil
❏ Aquarium rocks
❏ Small fish
❏ Small plant
❏ Coffee filters


  1. Cut the top off of your pop bottle.
  2. Fill the bottom of the bottle with small aquarium rocks.
  3. Fill the bottle up halfway with water. Add any aquarium toys or objects.
  4. Put your fish in the water, it’s their new home.
  5. Cut a small hole above the water level to put fish food through.
  6. Turn the top of the bottle over, the cut off part. Line this with the coffee filters.
  7. Fill the top of the bottle with a small layer of potting soil.
  8. Add your plant and nestle it in the soil.
  9. Place the inverted top into the bottle, above the fish, with its mouth resting in the water.
  10. Place it at home in a window where it can get sunlight. The water will grow rich with nutrients from the fish, which you must feed daily. The fish-water nutrients will feed the plant and help it grow healthy.

OBJECTIVE: Kids will be able to conduct observations from experimentation and literature to identify patterns in what living things need to live.


  • What do living things need to survive?
  • Do plants and animals have the same requirements?


1. Create the pop bottle ecosystem with your child.

2. Set up a plant without water.

3. Observe your ecosystem and plant without water for several days.

a. Feed fish daily;

b. Water for plant should come from the fish area;

c. Should be placed in a well-lit window in a temperature-controlled area.


1. Ask child to identify patterns from their daily observations:

a. Of the plant?

b. Of the fish?

2. Read books and ask questions about the topic.

a. Potential literature

i. How a Seed Grows, Helene J. Jordan

ii. Cactus Hotel, Brenda Z. Guiberson

iii. What’s Alive?, Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

iv. I Am a Living Thing, Bobbie Kalman

b. Ask child what living things need:

i. Animals?

ii. Plants?


1. Have child complete the “What Do Living Things Need” worksheets.

a. Support them with cutting, pasting, and reasoning.

Educational Standards


K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.


W.K.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g. explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).

K.MD.A.2 Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/”less of” the attribute, and describe the difference.

MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking
Level 4: Extended Thinking