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Biology in Elementary Schools home

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Biology In Elementary Schools is a Saint Michael's College student project from a course that ran between 2007 and 2010 and fully described in this book chapter. The student-created resources have been preserved here for posterity. Link under 'toolbox' for printer-friendly versions of the exercises. Click on handouts to print full resolution versions. Please see Wikieducator's disclaimer, our safety statement, and the Creative Commons licensing in English and in legalese.

Student worthiness

Tried and Trusted!

Primary biological content area covered

  • Habitats for living organisms
  • Self-sustaining habitats
  • Water cycle


  • 1 Two-Liter Soda Bottle for Each Group
  • 1 Bottle Cap per Group
  • Thick Cotton String
  • Scissors
  • Thumb Tack
  • Potting Soil
  • Seeds or something to plant
  • Clear packing tape
  • Paper Towels
  • Permanent Marker
  • Observation Journal "My Biodome Journal" (simple journals for the students to record their observations)
This lesson may foster mold growth. Mold spores cause allergic reactions and so the container should remain sealed prior to disposal.


Each student will be given their own "My Biodome Journal". This way they will have a means to record daily observations of their plant's growth.

Along with their observations, students can draw pictures of their plants' progress on the cover of their journal or on other pages inside.

Observation journal.JPG

Description of activity

A biodome is a self-sustaining habitat for plants. Students will make a biodome in a recycled soda bottle and watch as their seeds grow. Students will observe and understand how the water in the biodome continues to recycle itself through condensation and evaporation.

Lesson plan

Teacher preparation:

1) Remove the outer labels on all soda bottles for better visibility of your plants growth.

2) Poke a hole in the soda bottle's cap and then proceed to enlarge it. Use scissors or a pencil to make the hole big enough for the string to fit through.


1) With the marker, make a small mark 2 or 3 centimeters up from the bottom of the bottle. Then make a mark about halfway between the bottom curve of the bottle and the top curve. Finally mark the top of the bottle, where the bottle starts to curve up (about 3 inches from the bottle opening).

2) After students mark the bottles, the teacher should cut along the top line with scissors, cutting the top of the bottle off for the students.

3) Soak the string in water and make sure it is plenty damp.

4) Pour water up to the lowest line on the soda bottle.

5) Lower the string into the water and hold it, so it stays in the middle of the bottle.

6) Pour the soil up to the second line on the bottle. Make sure that the string stays in the center of the soil. The string should not be sticking to the side because then the water will not be evenly dispersed.

7) Make a small hole in the dirt and place a seed into the hole and then cover the hole with dirt. (If the seed is small enough, you can place a straw into the hole and drop the seed through the straw; just make sure that there is no soil in the straw).

8) Put the top of the string through the hole in the cap and tie it. The string acts as a wick which will bring water in the soil.

9) Using the clear packing tape, tape the top of the soda bottle on to the rest of the bottle.

10) Make sure the cap is on and your biodome is complete. The biodome is all set because the water is passed into the soil through the string. The water continues to energize the plants. Be sure to allow your biodome to be in sunlight because sunlight is an important part for helping plants grow.

Potential Problems and Suggestions

  • There might not be enough work for all the students to do.
  • Students cannot take the biodome home because their entire group is sharing it.
  • It could become very messy with the dirt and the water.
  • Students might have already done a similar experiment.
  • Students could make individual biodomes if everyone brings their own soda bottle if there are enough other materials.
  • Make sure your students are not waiting too long for the activity because of short attention spans.
  • Be clear when explaining how moisture will stay in the biodome.
  • Make sure that the time for the experiment is planned accordingly.
  • Have students do most of the work so that they will get the most out of it.

Math connections

  • Students can measure and graph the growth of the seed they plant.
  • Students can also predict how tall they think their plant will grow and see how close their predictions were.
  • Students can equally distribute seeds for each member of the group.
  • Students will fill an entire cup with soil and this will have them measuring the amount of dirt.

Literature connections

  • The Magic School Bus Gets Planted: A Book About Photosynthesis by Lenore Notkin
  • Nature's Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons
  • The Kid Haven Science Library Series Photosynthesis by Bonnie Juettner

Connections to educational standards

  • S1-2:48 (DOK 2)

Students demonstrate their understanding of Processes and Change over Time within Earth Systems by: Observing and recording weather data through the seasons and identifying and drawing conclusions based on the patterns in the data collected. Science Concepts: a. The sun provides the light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of the earth. b. There are cyclical changes that we see throughout the seasons that can be observed and recorded.

  • S1-2:46 (DOK 2)

Students demonstrate their understanding of Processes and Change over time within Systems of the Universe by:

Observing, describing and comparing color and texture of different types of rocks and soils. AND Conducting tests on how different types of soils retain water. Science Concepts: a. Earth materials are solid rocks and soils. b. Soil and rocks have properties of color and texture; in addition, some soils retain different amounts of water.

  • S1-2:30 (DOK 1)

Students demonstrate their understanding of Structure and Function-Survival Requirements by:

Observing and recording the parts that make up living things (i.e., roots, stems, leaves, flowers, legs, antennae, tail, shell). Science Concept: a. Living things like plants and animals are made of parts that enable survival.

  • S1-2:34 (DOK 2)

Students demonstrate their understanding of Energy Flow in an Ecosystem by:

Experimenting with plant growth under different conditions, including light and no light. Science Concept: a. Plants need light which is their source of energy to survive.

Next steps and things that could be done differently

Students can keep a daily journal and record observations that come across as their biodomes begin to grow and develop. This way they can track how long it takes for the seeds they plant to bloom, while observing other aspects of their growing plant. They can also record any other data, including growth of the plant once it starts to sprout and continue to grow. From here students can take the mathematical data and graph it on a daily basis to see its productivity overall, once the plant has fully grown.

  • Going into the experiment I was not as confident as after actually doing the experiment with the kids. They really enjoyed it and I think their teacher did as well.
  • If I could change one thing, I think I would have tried to have us as the other teachers organize while one of us was teaching a particular part.
  • It was hard with four teachers to each have an active role.


Citations and links

  • Vermont State Grade Expectations can be found at the State of Vermont Department of Education website.