Build an ecosystem in a bottle. Include soil, plants, fungi, and small animals (insects, worms, etc)
found in your local environment. Maintain the ecosystem for at least seven days after completing
construction of the ecosystem. Observe it daily, and keep a record of your observations. Discuss
1) You will need one large CLEAR 2-quart or 3-quart soda pop bottle with the label removed. Take
a strip of masking tape and run it along the top part of the bottle, right where the neck just starts to
taper. Carefully, using a pair of scissors, cut horizontally around the bottle using the edge of the
tape as your cutting line, then remove the tape. Keep the top portion along with its cap for later use.
2) Place about 1/2" of gravel in the bottom of the bottle to aid drainage (optional). Now loosely add
3" of potting soil (or good garden soil). Tap the bottle so the soil will settle some, but not enough
to pack it tight.
3) Get a pack of bean seeds and some grass seed. Many stores will donate a couple of packs
and a handful of grass seed.. You'll need 3-4 bean seeds and 2-3 pinches of grass seed per
bottle. You can also add moss, snails, potato bugs, worms, and other insects if you like. (Careful,
some insects or caterpillars will eat your plants.
4) Using a pencil, poke holes about 1" deep in the soil. Place a bean seed in each hole. If you
plant them near the bottles edge, you'll be able to see the roots sprout and grow. Lightly recover
the beans. Now lightly sprinkle the grass seeds over the top of the soil. Scratch the surface lightly
with a fork to place the grass seed just slightly under the soil (not too much).
5) Sprinkle (not pour) water into the bottle until the soil is very damp but not soaked. Let it sit for a
while and watch the water permeate through the soil. Sprinkle more water again until the soil is
damp all the way down to the bottom. If the bottle is turned slightly on its side you should not be
able to see water flow up the side, otherwise you have too much water.
6) Screw the cap on tight and place the top back on the bottle. You may invert the bottle (as I did) or
you can replace it as it was. Using clear 2" wide scotch tape, tape the top back onto the bottle,
making sure that it is well sealed. Identify each bottle with a label (name & date started). The
bottles should now be placed in a warm sunny spot that at least receives indirect light for most of
the day. Make sure it doesn't get too hot and bake the young starting plants.
7) Keep a daily log of your ecosystem's progress. How you assembled the bottle, what it looks
like, when the seeds started to sprout, any changes in moisture, leaves growing, etc. You will not
need to water the bottle again.
Keep your daily log for about two weeks. Bring your bottle and log to scout camp. Show your bottle
and log and explain your observations.
Now go build or make an ecosystem in a bottle with some friends.
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