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Wetland. Wasteland. The two words were synonymous until recently. Today wetlands are valued not only for the habitat they provide to a variety of plant and animal species, but also for the benefits they bring to our cities and water resources. Here are a few examples:

The Southwest Florida Water Management District preserves wetlands for the water's sake. With your class, you can build a wetland model that will demonstrate these functions to the students and show why wetlands are now considered precious.

Learning goals

Subjects

Materials

Sunshine State Standards

Science: Processes that Shape the Earth, SC.D.1.3, SC.D.2.3; How Living Things Interact with Their Environment, SC.G.1.3, SC.G.2.3; The Nature of Science, SC.H.1.3, SC.H.2.3. Social Studies: People, Places and Environments, SS.B.2.3

Activity

1. To set up the activity, spread a layer of the clay in half of the lasagna pan or sweater box to represent land. Leave the other half of the pan empty to represent a lake or other body of water. Shape the clay so that it gradually slopes down to the body of water as in the diagram on the back of this page. Smooth the clay along the side to seal the edges. Cut a piece of indoor-outdoor carpeting that will completely fill the width of the pan along the edge of the clay. This represents the wetland. Do not place the carpet into the model yet.

2. Demonstrating to the class, use the turkey baster to pour clear water slowly over the clay. This can represent rainfall. Ask the students to observe what happens. (The water runs over the clay and into the depression.)

3. Use the baster to drain the water from the model back into its original container. Show the students the strip of carpeting and ask them to imagine that it represents a wetland. After you place the strip in the model, ask the students to predict what will happen when you pour water onto the clay again.

Diagram

4. Explain that most wetlands are shallow basins that collect water and slow its rate of flow. Using the model, explain how this helps reduce flooding.

Pour the same amount of water onto the model again. Let the students describe what happens. (The water will drain more slowly because it is hindered by a wetland.)

5. Drain out the clear water. Leaving the carpeting in place, pour some muddy water onto the clay. Ask the students to compare the water that flows through the wetland into a body of water with the water left in the jar. (The water that passed through the wetland is clearer.) This demonstration shows the ability of wetlands to reduce soil erosion and filter stormwater pollutants.

6. Remove the carpeting and again pour the muddy water over the model. Show what would happen if wetlands were not there to act as a water filter. (All of the pollutants flow directly into the water body.)

Discussion

This activity was adapted from the Water Sourcebook, a series of classroom activities produced by the Georgia Water Wise Council in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information, call (770) 426-8936, extension 234.

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