January 18 , 2005

Past Episodes
Watch the Show
Wetland Facts
Wetlands Home


What is a Wetland?

Inland Wetlands

Where are all the Wetlands?

Wetlands for the Future

People and Wetlands

Classroom Activities:




The student will be able to:

  1. Identify animals that use wetlands to raise their young.
  2. Identify food that animals find in wetlands.
  3. Discuss how loss of wetlands affected these animals.


Students will simulate three nesting seasons for a variety of animals that use wetlands as a nursery. They will also experience the loss of food as the wetland shrinks.


  • large play area

  • one set of animal/food cards, copied from pages 46 & 47 and cut apart

  • 24 red cards or pieces of construction paper

  • 24 blue cards or pieces of construction paper

  • stick-on labels, one per student


SUBJECTS Communications Earth Science
Government Mathematics

analysis, evaluation, graphing, inference, interpretation, small group work


24 students

indoor or outdoor


I. Awareness and Appreciation of Wildlife

II. Human Values and Wildlife

III. Wildlife and Ecological Systems

I V. Wildlife Conservation

V. Cultural and Social Interaction with Wildlife

VI. Wildlife Issues and Trends: Alternatives and Consequences

VI I. Wildlife, Ecological Systems, and Responsible Human Actions

KEY VOCABULARY wetland, habitat

KEY TEXT Chapters Two and Four, parts of Three and Five


Wetlands, with their abundance of water and soil, create intricate food webs. For example, a wetland in Idaho might provide plants that animals such as moose and waterfowl eat. They provide a nursery for insects that comprise the diets of fish, birds, amphibians, and mammals such as bats. Fish, in turn, become meals for other animals such as osprey. Frogs are eaten by herons; etc. Ducks, moose, deer, and fish are also consumed by humans who hunt and fish in Idaho's wetland areas.

When wetlands disappear, so do many of the species dependent on this rich and intricate habitat. Some animals, such as birds and larger mammals, may be able to relocate to other wetlands. But the insects may not be so mobile, and the plants certainly aren't.

Consider the following paragraph, from Between Land and Water: The Wetlands of Idaho, a publication produced by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game:

"Wetlands provide food, shelter, and cover for resident and migratory species. Their bountiful and diverse plant life supports in turn a cornucopia of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Without wetlands, the food chain could not exist."

For more information, see Chapters Two and Four, plus parts of Chapters Three and Five.


1. List the following animals on a large board or chart :

  • moose
  • mallard duck
  • beaver
  • red-winged blackbird
  • osprey
  • bat
  • frog
2. Assign students to be a parent of each of these animals.

3. Assign the remaining students to be young for the parents, in this amount:

  • moose: 1
  • mallard duck: 4
  • beaver: 2
  • red-winged blackbird: 2
  • osprey: 2
  • bat: 1
  • frog: 5
Have each student stick on a label with its species name.

4. Explain the activity:

A. It covers three nesting seasons, or years.

B. During each "year," each parent must find food, water, and shelter for its young. Each of these things is represented by a card, and the cards can be collected only one at a time and brought back to the young before collecting another card.

C. Each parent will try to collect 1 water card (blue) and 1 shelter card (red) and 1 food card for each of its young and itself.

5. Conduct Year One:

A. Tell each animal group to find its nesting area within the "wetland."

B. When you call "start," each parent begins collecting cards. All parents should be able to collect all their cards this time.

C. Have the students graph and discuss the results. Discuss the value of wetlands as nurseries.

6. Conduct Year Two:

A. While students are graphing the Year One data, collect all of the cards and remove 1 of each of the food cards, plus 1 red (shelter) and 1 blue (water).

B. Reduce the playing area by one-third. Explain that part of the wetland was drained in preparation for development.

C. Repeat Step 5, discussing why some of the young did not make it the second year.

7. Conduct Year Three:

A. While students are graphing the Year Two data, collect all of the cards and remove all but 6 blue (water), 4 red (shelter), and 3 plant and 5 insect cards.

B. Reduce the playing area by another one-third. Explain two-thirds of the wetland is now developed and the remaining area is drained.

C. Repeat Step 5, discussing the effects of development on raising young.

8. Predict Year Four.

Have the students prepare a 15-minute presentation about the results of this activity. Tell them to pretend that they will be presenting their information to a local government committee.

1. Extend the evaluation by simulating a public hearing. Assemble another class to serve as a local government planning committee that is holding a public hearing about a developer's request to fill in a wetland. Ask the guest group to decide the fate of the wetland based on your students' presentation.

2. Have each animal group prepare a presentation on how this animal depends on wetlands and if it is being impacted by wetlands development.

3. Have your students adapt this activity to the animals that live in wetlands around your area.

IdahoPTV home D4K Dialogue for Kids home