Unit 4 – Ecosystem Interactions

Lesson 1 – Ecosystem in a Bottle

In our ecosystem interaction unit, we are going to learn about ecosystems in a bottle. I know ecosystems in a bottle are an entertaining activity on their own. However, I prepared this activity with a lesson plan. It includes literacy and science comprehension components, gearing your experiment towards project-based learning and interactive learning. One of the best aspects of this project is it is a part of a series! You can start here and complete this experiment now because it stands alone. If you want to look back at the series, you can choose which unit to start on: basic science, water science, kingdoms of life, or ecosystem interactions.



Use the text below as a guide for when you complete this project together.

In this lesson will learn about how all nonliving items interact with and all the living organisms on the planet. All of these components create ecosystems. The Earth is one huge ecosystem, with all the living and nonliving beings interacting and affecting each other. However, we usually look at ecosystems on a much smaller level. There are even ecosystems invisible to the human eye! These tiny ecosystems consist of microbial life forms like protist and bacteria! Ecosystems can also affect other ecosystems, both near and far away from them.

What we are studying in the ecosystem is the transfer of energy from one organism to another. Energy is essential for any object or organism to move. Energy is transferred in ecosystems through consumption and digestion, meaning one organism eats another. We will be discussing in more detail during our Food Chains Versus Food Webs Lesson that is coming up. But today, after we finish learning about ecosystems, we will make our own ecosystems in a bottle!

              An ecosystem thrives when it can continue to grow, even when the only outside energy or nutrients is the sun. As you remember from the plant lesson, plants use the sun, water, and soil to create their food. The energy from plants is brought back into energy for other organisms (even without eating the plants).  

               Now let’s start with our ecosystem in a bottle!!


  • 2 matching plastic bottles (2 litters work best)
  • Seeds (I recommend a bean)
  • Braided yarn
  • Cheesecloth
  • Masking tape
  • Soil


  1. Cut the bottles in half.
  2. Take the top half of one bottle, turn it upside down, and set it on top of the first bottle’s bottom.
  3. Put the braided yarn into the bottom of both bottles and tape it (make sure the string’s tip is exposed).
  4. Cover the bottom of the top bottle in cheesecloth.
  5. Pour enough soil into the bottle to plant a seed and cover the string and cheesecloth.
  6. Pour water through the bottle and until the bottom of the bottle is halfway filled with water.
  7. Plant your seed 1-2 inches into the soil.
  8. Tape the top of the second bottle to the top of the first bottle.
  9. Leave your bottle in the sun.
  10. Return to the bottle every day to document your observations

If you would like to do a more advanced version of “Ecosystem in a Bottle,” you can have a fish living at the bottom of the bottle. I did not include this portion in my lesson plans because I am 90% sure my cats will try to eat the fish.

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