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Standards: 4.1 Watersheds and Wetlands, 4.3 Environmental Health, 4.6 Ecosystems and Their Interactions, 4.8 Humans and the Environment, 4.9 Environmental Laws and Regulations

Duration: 30 to 40 minutes

Setting: Inside, Outside – General, Wetland

Vocabulary: pollution, model, recycling, impact, source

Summary: Students will use a model of a community/ecosystem to find different sources of pollution and discuss what they could do to stop them.

Objectives: Students will understand where pollution comes from and what it does to our water supplies. They will learn different ways they can work to stop pollution from occurring, and why this is important. They will also understand the concept of using a model to represent something that could not be visualized easily otherwise.

Materials: Enviroscape model from Enviroscapes Inc. OR paint tray, clay, Legos (or something else to represent buildings), spray bottle, Jello mix of different colors, sponges


Note: If you do not have access to an actual Enviroscape model, you can make your own using a paint tray and clay. Use the clay to make a town landscape on the upper part of the paint tray, and a stream/wetland/pond area on the lower “downhill” part. Include roads, and use legos to represent houses. The idea of making your own was taken from a Wonder of Wetlands educational training, presented by Environmental Concern.

Pollution is defined as a contaminant that disturbs an ecosystem. It can either be man-made, or a naturally occurring substance that ends up in a place it does not belong, like large amounts of soil washing into a river because of human disturbance. Pollution can also be in the form of energy, like sound or light. For example, there are very few places left in the United States where you cannot hear any man-made sounds like traffic, or airplanes.

Pollution comes from many different sources. In a community, pollution can come from many sources, including chemicals from factories, car leakage onto roads and parking lots, pesticides and fertilizers used on farms and lawns, manure from farms, chemicals from construction sites, loose soil from construction sites, litter thrown out of cars or from houses, etc. All of these different types of pollution contaminate the habitats they start in (like litter interfering with birds or other small mammals), and also usually end up in nearby streams, wetlands, and even our own water supplies during rainstorms. Once it is in our drinking supply, the resource either becomes unusable or becomes very expensive to ‘fix.’

Many students have trouble with the idea that there is only a certain amount of water on the earth. It can be useful to remind them that the water they are drinking and using now is the same water that the dinosaurs drank! We cannot create MORE water, we can only clean up the water that we currently have. The more our water is polluted, the more expensive and more difficult this becomes.


Warm Up:

Explain to students that they will be looking at a model of their community.  A model is useful for looking at the different kinds of pollution in their area, because it would be impossible to see all of the sources of pollution and what happens when it rains at once in the real world! Because it is a model, each thing represents part of the bigger picture. For example, there is more than one farm in their community, so in the model the one farm represents ALL of the farms in real life. The same goes for houses, factories, gulf courses, etc.

Ask students what pollution means to them, and to think of some sources of pollution in their communities.


Explain the different parts of the model, pointing out houses/neighborhoods, factories, construction sites, roads, streams, golf courses, etc. Define pollution, and ask students to point out places pollution might come from in their community.

Allow students to pour Jello powder onto the areas where they think pollution comes from. For example, they might put brown Jello powder onto the construction site, to represent loose soil, or green powder onto the farms, houses, and golf course to represent fertilizer. Small pieces of paper could be scattered around the houses and roadsides to represent litter.

After the ‘pollution’ has been places on the model, use a spray bottle or pour water to make it ‘rain.’ The students can watch as all of the Jello powder and bits of paper flow downhill into the water source at the lowest point of the model. The water will turn a brownish color because of all of the different dyes.

Ask students if they would like to drink the water. Ask them if it seems like a healthy place for fish and other animals to live. Explain that now if we want to drink the water, we have to spend lots of money cleaning it to remove the bad things.

Empty out the dirty water in the bottom of the model.  Ask students to come up with ideas of how to remove some of the sources of pollution. Some examples would be recycling instead of littering (put less litter on the sides of roads), not using chemical fertilizers, fencing off cows so the manure is not close to water sources (add clay to make a fence), and planting more trees along edges to capture pollution and keep it from getting into our water sources (add strips of sponges around farm, along roadsides, around golf courses, and construction sites). Repeat the exercise with less pollution and new trees and compare how much pollution gets into the water now.


Ask students first to define “pollution,” and then name some different sources. Have them explain why pollution is bad for plants and animals, including humans. Ask them to name three things they could each do personally to reduce pollution.


Have students create posters telling people how they can reduce pollution.

Have students make their own Enviroscape models to represent an ideal community, or to represent a previous time in their community’s history (either before people built there or before they became more environmentally conscious).



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