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6.1: Planning

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Idea

  • Resources cycle in undisturbed ecosystems but may be lost in disturbed ones.


This section expands on the concept of cycling. Students have been introduced to water and carbon cycles in natural communities. In this section they discover how one group of ecologists developed an experiment to study how nutrients are cycled. The ecologists demonstrated how clear-cutting a watershed affects the nutrient cycles in a natural community. Students build a model of their own watershed and conduct an experiment similar to the experiment a group of ecologists in New Hampshire conducted as they studied the Hubbard Brook watershed.



explain the cycling of nutrients in a watershed.

identify what happens to cycles when ecosystems are disturbed.

explain that resources continue to cycle in undisturbed ecosystems.

use a model to simulate a natural phenomenon.


recycle, watershed

Student Materials

Activity 5-1: Go with the Flow: Hubbard Brook Watershed

Per Student

  • Resource 1
  • Resource 2
  • Activity Report

Per group or class

  • 8 to 10 half-liter milk cartons, rinsed and opened; One 1-liter pitcher; Graduated cylinder; Water; Bucket or sink; Stapler or tape
  • Large tray with sides at least 4 cm high (A wallpaper tray works well. Or a piece of gutter closed tightly at both ends is another option.)
  • Large piece of sturdy cardboard-approximately 1 m square

Teacher Materials

Activity 5-1: Go with the Flow: Hubbard Brook Watershed

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Towels if conducted indoors
  • Sink or bucket to dump extra water

Advance Preparation

Students should have some introductory knowledge of the cycling of water and nutrients from the previous section. You might wish to review what the students learned about the water cycle in Section 4. You might also discuss what some other types of nutrients might cycle in the environment such as nitrates, potassium, and calcium-the nutrients the ecologists measured in their experiment with the Hubbard Brook watershed.

Activity 5-1: Go with the Flow: Hubbard Brook Watershed

  • See Activity 5-1 in the Student Edition
  • Begin collecting half-liter milk cartons a few weeks before the simulation. Make sure they are rinsed thoroughly.
  • Gather large pieces of cardboard at appliance stores or from cardboard recycling bins.
  • For the collection apparatus, use a large baking tray or wallpaper tray from a hardware store.

Enrichment Activities


Interdisciplinary Connections

Math The students analyze graphs in this section. Analyzing the graphs demonstrates how math is used in science to represent important scientific data.

Social Studies The content of this section can provide the basis for a discussion about international deforestation and the difficulty in regulating international environmental policies.

Background Information

Hubbard Brook Watershed Experiment If you want to learn more about this series of experiments done at Hubbard Brook, you can find information in the following book. This book can best be found in a local college library:

Bormann, F.H. and G.E. Likens, Pattern and Process in a Forested Ecosystem, Springer- Verlag, New York. 1979.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Apr 29, 2014
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