Summer Lessons in Biology
What is a biosphere? Planet earth is a biosphere, an enclosed, self-regulating system with no intervention from outside the sphere. And while sounding like something out of a science fiction novel, human-made biospheres exist on large scales (i.e. Biosphere 2 in Arizona) and on small scales, like in a jar on your windowsill!
To learn how biosphere work, you can create your own enclosed ecosystem in the form of a “tabletop biosphere” with some basic supplies and a trip to a local pond this summer with your kids. DIY biospheres are both fun to construct, and can help youth to make connections between the processes and changes occurring in their small-scale biosphere with those occurring on a larger scale all over planet earth.
Everything within the biosphere is intricately connected, which is why it is important to have all aspects of the system - scavengers, consumers, recyclers, cleaners, refuge/shelter, photosynthesis, a pH buffer, and an energy source. Understanding how biospheres work and support themselves is critical in understanding the delicacy and interconnectedness of earth’s systems, which in turn helps teach the importance of protecting and caring for these systems. – Check out this video…
People of all ages can make tabletop biospheres, and it is a creative, scientific, and educational process. Kids can engage in science, engineer a biological system, learn about ecology, and explore local natural areas. Biospheres are also an exciting way to do a long-term, small-scale ecosystem study and observe how your creation changes over time.
Materials, instructions, and more information can be found in this pdf, Make a Tabletop Biosphere, the folks at makezine.com have compiled.
If you end up making one, snap a photo, tell us what your kids thought about putting one together, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share it on our network!
[Photo credit: (ccl) Kevin Osbock]