AB Charades


Introduces students to abiotic and biotic components of ecosystems and uses charades to reinforce their importance.


Students will be able to:

  • define and categorize Abiotic and Biotic factors
  • express their understanding of ecosystem components through creative movement


  • Formative – Scientific vocab brainstorm or mind map (see Introduction)
  • Summative — Abiotic and Biotic Simon Says: As you’re walking along the trail, explain to students you’ll be playing a version of Simon Says. In this version, however, students are only to complete a task that involves an abiotic thing; they are not to complete a task if it involves something biotic. For instance, if you say “Simon Says, do a dance for the sun!” then they will dance; if you say “Simon Says, give your neighbor a high five” then they should not high five. Questions can get more complex, and the “Simon” role can easily be passed along to students. This is an easy way to, like charades, physically reinforce these learnings!


Introduction: Sit your students down and brainstorm (write or mind map on your whiteboard or butcher paper) some scientific vocabulary. What have they been learning in science class recently? What are some words they might use to describe scientific phenomena in school? Then, explain that ecologists and naturalists use certain words to describe parts of the world. Introduce Biotic and Abiotic as terms, asking students to pair share and give examples of one abiotic thing they see at IslandWood and one they might see at school. Do the same for biotic things and address alternative conceptions as necessary.

  • AB Charades: After introducing Abiotic and Biotic terminology, ask students if any of them have every played charades. If possible, ask a student clarify the rules: in charades, one must act out a word or topic without speaking (it’s up to you whether you’d like to allow sound effects!). To test understanding, perform a charade yourself and have students guess.
  • To begin, group students into pairs and explain that they will be responsible for coming up with a charade to act out an abiotic or biotic thing. Students will have 3 minutes to come up with their charade and then will perform in front of the group. Go around and assign each group a simple abiotic or biotic component (e.g. light, air, water, human, squirrel, earthworm, etc.).
  • Allow students to work for a few minutes, checking in as necessary, then call the group back together for each performance. Once your team has guessed the pair’s charade, ask the pair to explain why their charade was abiotic or biotic.
  • For the second round, mix up partners, and have each pair come up with their own charade, asking them to check in with you before proceeding to practice. Let students present again, again clarifying whether each charade is abiotic or biotic.


  • Conclude the lesson by asking students if abiotic or biotic things were easier to act out, and why. Ask students which charade (other than their own) they remember well and why. Follow up with Abiotic Biotic Simon Says (see Assessments) on the trail if more reinforcement is needed!


AB Water Color Lesson:

Before this lesson make sure you have discussed what an ecosystem is and what biotic and abiotic mean. It could be worth asking the chaperon if the students have previous experience with watercoloring so you can gage how much time you need to spend on watercoloring techniques.
Recap the vocabulary ecosystem, biotic and abiotic. Then add that within an ecosystem we can also zoom in or zoom out and still find that there are abiotic and biotic things interacting. They are going to have an opportunity to sit on their own, choose to zoom in or zoom out of an ecosystem of their choice and watercolor it.

  • Bring the students to a space where you can circle them.
  • Explain that they are going to sit along the trail with a set of tools to record an ecosystem they can observe from their spot. Show them each of the tools they will be using and how to use them. Model using the pencil to draw the initial sketch, then use the sharpie pen to go over the pencil detail and finally the watercolor. It is important to go over how to use the water pens. If you are pressed for time make sure you model this part and leave out the others. Show them that they only need to press gently, that if they want to make new colors they can use the tray, that they must clean the brush before using the paper towel before mixing colors or using a new color.
  • Have the students line up with all their bags coats and journals in hand. Use your chaperone to help you hand out all the materials and tell them they will have 20 min to complete the task. Once they are ready with all the materials in hand, begin to walk down the trail. When you think you are far enough down the trail that the first student won’t see groups on the main trail walk by, stop and ask him/her to sit down and chose the ecosystem they want to focus on and write their name on the back. Spread out the next student far enough to not be able to see/talk to the other student. Continue to do so until they are all spread out along the trail. Ask the chaperone to walk back and forth prompt the students with the formative assessment questions. Join your chaperone in doing so. You might have to ask some students to add more detail and others to be mindful of time.

Wrap-up (15 min): 

  • As students begin to finish ask the chaperone to continue to walk back and forth while you wait for the students at the end of the trail (or where your student line ends). Give your chaperone an end time so they can bring all the students back at one time if they didn’t quite finish their work in the 20 minutes. Ask the students that come in early to label their watercolor, using the sharpie, with biotic and abiotic.
  • When all the students join you ask them to write down one example of how a biotic and an abiotic element are interacting in their watercolor. As soon as they are done they should join you in forming a circle and place their materials at their feet. Ask them to share their watercolor and how the biotic and abiotic elements are interacting with a shoulder partner. Then ask them to hold up their watercolors and if anyone would like to share theirs with the group.

Transfer of Learning: 
Ask the students:
-whether they can think of an example of biotic and abiotic elements interacting in their home community?
-why is learning about ecosystems important in the big picture?
-how does this lesson link to our paths to stewardship?

Written By: Lindsay Lang, IW EEC Class of 2014, extention by Monica Mesquita on April 2017

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