Lesson Plans: Wetland Ecology

Unit 1.1 Sensational Wetlands!

CLICK HERE for pdf file (for upper elementary and middle school). Students will use their senses to learn what makes a wetland different from other habitats.  Students will:

  • Describe how a wetland is different from other habitats
  • List some of the plants and animals that may be found in a wetland.
Rob Butler with Bird Studies Canada discusses the ecology of the Fraser River Delta near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (1:13)
David Rak with the USDA Forest Service talks about how melting glaciers have affected the land. (1:01)

Unit 1.2 Wetland Bamboozle

CLICK HERE for pdf file (for upper elementary and middle school). Wetlands have been defined differently by scientists, conservationists, developers, government, and countries.  However, most definitions generally agree that wetlands share traits from all three of these categories:

  • The wetland is saturated with water either permanently or intermittently.
  • The wetland has ‘hydric soils’ – soils hold water for all or part of the year, which creates an anaerobic (low oxygen) state.
  • Water-tolerant plants are found in the wetlands.  These plants are able to grow in the low oxygen conditions formed by the hydric soils.

Students will:

  • List and define several wetlands habitats
  • Explain several of the physical features that distinguish wetland types from one another

Additional extension activities:

  • Students could teach those in a younger grade what they learned and do the charade activity for them.
  • Videotape wetlands near your school and create a movie.


David D’Amore, a research soil scientist with the USDA Forest Service, explains the types of wetlands. (4:22)
David D’Amore discusses the changes of wetlands over time.  (1:55)

David D’Amore discusses the threats to wetlands. (2:06)

David Rak with the USDA Forest Service explains how melting glaciers have affected the land. (1:01)

Dr. Martin Berg, Professor, Department of Biology, Loyola University, talks about species that are found in ponds and how it changes over time. (3:20)

Unit 1.3 Wetland Metaphors

CLICK HERE for pdf file (for grades 1-12). Common objects can be used a physical metaphor for natural wetland functions. Students will:

  • Describe characteristics of wetlands.
  • Appreciate the importance of wetlands to wildlife and humans.
  • Identify ecological functions of wetlands.

Additional extension activities:

  • Create graphic illustrations of metaphors.  Write poems or stories using the metaphors, and publish them in the school newspaper.   
  • Create riddles to have classmates guess the critter. 
  • Make a Wetland Newsletter of creative writing for the school community.


Dr. Martin Berg, a biology professor at Loyola University, talks about the education required to become an aquatic ecologist. (1:22)

Unit 1.4 Plants: Nature's Filters

CLICK HERE for pdf file (for grades 6-7). Students will be able to explain the role plants in wetlands and riparian buffers play in protecting water quality.

Additional extension activities:

  • Construct the purification system over a container of plants. Try different plants.  Place one experiment system where other classrooms can watch the plants thrive or struggle.
David D’Amore, a research soil scientist with the USDA Forest Service, expands on the functions of wetlands to control water flow, act as a filter, improve water quality, provide  habitat for unique plants and animals, provide habitat for migrating animals, control flooding, and store water. (3:01)

Unit 1.5 Wetlands in Your Backyard

CLICK HERE for pdf file (for upper elementary and middle school). Students will use map skills to discover the natural habitats and community developments that are found in their local area.  Awareness of the habitats found in their ‘backyard’ will allow them to have a better understanding of the resources that migratory species might find in their local area.

After this activity, students will be able to:

  • List the different habitat types found within their local area
  • Identify, on a map of their local area, where these habitats are located
  • Conclude where they might find wildlife in their local area

Additional extension activities:

  • Invite local fish and wildlife biologist to classroom.   
  • If a wetland area is close, monitor the area by visiting the wetland at the same time everyday and record changes.    Record if the animals that are seen use other areas adjacent to the wetland.
Yakutat resident and native John Kadashan talks about how he and others in rural areas of Alaska use the forest and river to hunt and fish for food. (5:35)