Schoolyard Ecology

Thinking about the flow of matter and energy with students is one of the key ways of exploring ecosystems. In these lessons, students construct their own understanding of ecosystems through investigations in their schoolyard, developing ideas about ecological processes and functions.

Percolation Protocol

1 class period

Students will know how soil compaction affects water infiltration and will be able to design and carry out a simple experiment to test their ideas.  



A how-to video on setting up a percolation experiment:



  1. Divide class into learning pairs. Give each pair a soup can with the top and bottom removed. Be sure sharp edges have been flattened with pliers. Ask students to make 4-6 marks with a permanent pen 2cm from the bottom of their can.
  2. Assign an area of the schoolyard to each pair. You may need to conduct this research on half of the schoolyard at a time depending on the size of the schoolyard and the location of the different areas. The goal is to get percolation data from each area.
  3. Ask students to choose their first percolation site within their area. Invite students to clear leaves and clip grass to the ground using scissors.
  4.  Invite students to twist the can into the ground 2cm (to the marks they made). Ask students to pour 50 ml of water into the can and time how long it takes for the water to soak into the soil.
  5. Ask students to write their time on the student data sheet.
  6. Gather as a class and compile data on the class percolation data sheet.
  7. The following questions may be included in the class discussion or students may respond in their science journals. What did you notice? Where do you think rainwater would go if it falls on an area with a high percolation rate vs. one with a low percolation rate?


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