Thursday, September 5, 2013

Year 2 - Week 4 - Kings and Ecosystems

Year 2   Week 4        Kings and Ecosystems

Today for Wonderful Wednesday we dressed up as Kings!  I love to see what the kids come up with for their costumes!

We started with our usual - lapbooking together!

Our project for today was to put together an ecosystem.  I have to say this was a "challenging" and maybe looking back, a comical project for me (not the kids - they did great)!  I'll explain why....

Over the summer as I was planning out my Wonderful Wednesday projects I got an e-mail from one of the Moms asking me to "check out" this cool idea of an ecosystem since we're studying the water cycle, nitrogen cycle and oxygen/carbon cycles.  It looked really great when I looked at the link she sent me on Scribbit and seemed easy enough.  Well on paper, I guess anything can look good...  So first I decided to research the idea a little more so I could understand how this "ecosystem" could sustain itself when sealed.  I found other websites and comments from people who decided to give this thing a try as well.  There were opinions regarding whether you should use beta fish or sea monkeys or tadpoles.  There were also opinions concerning whether you needed to have a separate decomposition level or whether two (like used in Scribbit's experiment) were sufficient.  Different sites said you needed access holes and/or breathing holes, which to me, then meant it wasn't truly a self-sustaining ecosystem.  So the more I read, the more I wasn't sure what was the best way to do this project.  Therefore, I figured I should take a trip to my local Petsmart to ask someone there what they thought would work best for the aquatic level part of the experiment, since that seemed to be the main level in question with discrepancies among various websites I researched.

My trip to Petsmart was fruitful - sort of.  I found a fish department person who did this experiment herself in high school.  Great, I thought!!  She told me that there was no way it would sustain itself and that the fish would die.  She said that the amount of water per inch of fish made it so no fish but a beta would live in that little amount of water. a beta fish it was...that was until she told me that they wouldn't sell me a beta fish because it was an experiment and it would kill the fish.  She said beta fish are carnivores too (I know that one-we just studied that last week!) she said that also made it so that they had to be fed with pellet food and couldn't sustain themselves with just plants and snails in a bottle.  Her advice was to cut an access door in the aquatic level to feed the fish and keep it alive...that is, once someone would sell me one for the experiment because she couldn't.

Off to the Fish Room (an aquarium store nearby)- the person there was also not too willing to sell me a beta fish and snails for an experiment.  He confirmed that there was no way that a beta fish could survive without pellets in an experiment as I described...I asked if perhaps the fish could live off the asexual reproduction of the snails eggs that would be forthcoming from snails I would purchase; in addition to the matter that would be decomposed up above sending nutrients into the water not to mention the plant itself they could eat.  Silence....then the look I got made me sure that I must have spontaneously grown three eyes in the middle of my head.  He then flatly said "no".  I thanked him for his advice and insight and then left - promptly checked the mirror in the car for green lettuce hanging out of my teeth or perhaps that third eye.

That left me to ponder this whole experiment.  An access door and pellets sounded necessary but then it seemed like it wasn't an ecosystem if it wasn't able to sustain itself for very long.  I decided a third trip to yet another pet store would yield me the needed answers to this ecosystem dilemma.  So, off to The Pet Pad next.  I found a fish person there.  She said the only fish that would survive this experiment possibly, was a beta fish.  She recommended I put an access door into the aquatic level and feed it fish pellets or it would die.  She was willing to sell me the fishes, snails and aquatic plants.  So I bought betas, snails and aquatic plants for each child along with crickets for the terrestrial level.

Once we got back home we went outside and collected dead leaves on the ground, twigs, and got some rotting bananas for our terrestrial level.  I already had sand, aquarium rocks (from our atmosphere project!), packaging tape and Walmart had soda bottles and earth worms to complete our supplies for this project.  

My husband returned from work that evening and I warned him "when you go down to the basement kitchen you will see some fish, worms, crickets and snails on the counter for tomorrow's experiment."  Again, with the three eyes spontaneously growing from my head look.  His response a moment later was "Is this experiment occurring inside my house tomorrow, so I can have crickets in my man cave?"  I assured him we would be outside for this one, which he happily accepted - I then dashed upstairs to check the weather for the morning -whew!  Sunny day on tap!
The next morning I went downstairs to begin to take tables outside for the set up of our experiment.  I went to the fish I had carefully placed individually into cups because I was sternly warned they would fight and eat one another if I didn't.  However, to my dismay, there was one glass empty!  What in the world?  Where could a fish in a cup go?  I thought maybe I  was mistaken on the number of fish I had purchased or miscounted.  So I asked my Dad and Sarah how many fish we had gotten...they confirmed what I thought.  The search began for the missing fish.  Where could a fish on a counter go?  Well apparently, if they have aspirations to become dolphins at Sea World, they jump out of the cup onto the counter to their death!  Great :(- !  Now it was 30 minutes before the start of Wonderful Wednesday and one child is short a fish!  Turns out, it was my daughter who was short the fish that she had picked out as her "own" the night before.  So off my Dad (who is visiting from NY) went to go back to the pet store as soon as they opened to get Sarah another beta fish that was the same color.  
What we ended up doing after I had gathered supplies and printed a couple different directions/types of ecosystems - was to go with an aquatic level and one terrestrial level.  We decided against a separate decomposition level between them like some of the directions stated.  I have no idea how long this experiment will survive or how it will go.  As of today, one day later, my daughter informed me that she thinks the cricket some how got out of the hole we had cut for access to the terrestrial level (to put more food to decompose at a later date).  I sent my friend down to look and confirm if the cricket was still there.  Her report left me to realize that my promise to keep crickets out of my husband's man cave quite possibly has come to ruin.  We will keep it our little secret though until it jumps on him as he's watching TV!  LOL!  I have a feeling "live" experiments may be band in the future for Wonderful Wednesday by the home owner.  :)


(3) 2 Liter clear soda bottles
1 Beta fish (ask for extra water from the pet store)
2 Crickets
1-2 Worms
1 Snail (large so Beta can't eat it)
Grass seed
Various twigs & dead leaves
Aquarium rocks
Old fruit (bananas, apples)
Packaging tape (clear)

First we cut our first of three bottles - cutting it at the top near where the label would end.  This opened bottle became the base and we filled it about 2" with aquarium rocks.  Next we added our Beta fish and water plants.
The extra water I asked for from the fish store was used to give the fish and plant plenty of familiar water to thrive in on this bottom layer.  Next we added a snail to each aquatic layer.

After plants were in and fish was in with snail, we looked for some roly poly bugs and didn't see any but did find some slugs.  Some of the kids chose to put them in the next layer we did -which was the terrestrial layer.

Before adding the terrestrial layer we took our 2nd bottle and cut it at the two ends where the label basically would end.  This became a "chamber" that we taped with clear packaging tape around the top of our aquatic level bottle.

 Next we took the last bottle and we cut the bottom portion off (but you will add it back on later).  This bottle was then given netting at the top where the soda would normally pour out, and it was secured via a rubber band.  Sand was added and a layer of organic dirt.  Next we added our grass seed.  Then we began to add the twigs and leaves we had gathered.  We added the crickets, old fruit and slugs.

Last we added our worms to this terrestrial layer.  We added a small amount of water to give the grass seed a chance to start growing and kick start our water cycle!  We then took the bottom we had cut off and added it back, taping it to the open chamber we had made and taped the bottle to chamber bottle connecting our aquatic level.

We all decided to make a little access door in both levels (aquatic and terrestrial) so we could put additional fruit and also feed the beta fish pellets.

To end the craziness of this experiment for me - we had all the bottles set up on the table and were having the kids head out to get a final picture with their experiments when all of a sudden the table started to tip over as a child leaned on it and all the girls screamed as their fish and experiments headed for the ground!  We were able to catch all but one that made it to the ground - yes, you guessed it - the one that hit the ground was my daughters.  LOL!  So glad this day and experiment was done...
Guest appearance by Grandpa Louie (My Dad who saved the day by getting Sarah a new beta fish!)


  1. Laughing my head off over here! Too funny.

  2. Love seeing the girls dressed up we have a couple of dress up days coming up in our co-op that I am really looking forward to. I didn't realize you could do CC out of someones house. Looks like y'all are having a wonderful time.

    1. The kids enjoy dressing up - it's such a fun element for children. We actually all belong to our local CC Community and do attend a day on campus there. We get together to do Wonderful Wednesdays we have named it, which is basically lapbooking through the memory work together and doing an experiment or project around that week's science usually. Hope your kids enjoy the dress up days! Blessings - Colleen

  3. What a neat idea! I can't believe that the pet store people wouldn't sell you the fish! Well, I guess I can, but it's so sad that people value tiny fish more than they value humans these days =(