Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3 through 8, students use BrainPOP resources to explore symbiosis and how living things need one another to survive. Students will then create a sustainable ecosystem through virtual game play by correctly layering the different communities in a Winogradsky Column.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explain symbiosis and how living things need one another to survive.
  2. Create a sustainable ecosystem by correctly layering the different communities in a Winogradsky Column.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Projector and/or interactive whiteboard


microscopic; kingdom; digestive tract; antibiotics; cilia and flagella; prokaryotic; photosynthesis; fission; mutate; inhospitable


Explore the Close Knit Neighbors Game and plan for how you will introduce it to students. You may want to divide this lesson plan into a two day activity.

In this game, a jar of pond mud features a complex community of different organisms. There should be algae making oxygen from the light near the top, and bacteria feeding on sulfur compounds in the bottom. However, the jar has fallen apart and all the communities are disorganized. Students must put them back in the jar in the right order, ensuring that each community is able to eat chemicals produced by the things around them and is positioned away from chemicals that poison them.

You can find more resources by the developer of this game on the SciGames and Space Science Institute websites.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. As a warm up, project the Worksheet and have students discuss whether with a partner whether each statement about bacteria is true or false. Ask if students were unable to come to a consensus on any statement and discuss them as a class as needed.
  2. Check for students' prior knowledge by projecting the Symbiosis Quiz. Have students indicate their answer choice for each question and explain their reasoning. Play the Symbiosis movie if students need more background knowledge on this topic.
  3. Tell students they will be playing a game to explore how different types of bacteria function together in an ecosystem. Explain that you will show the Bacteria movie to help prepare students for successful game play.
  4. Project the Close Knit Neighbors Game for the class. Talk about the basic premise of the game that pops up on the first screen and the strategies students will need to use. You may want to play a round of the game to model how it works.
  5. Give students 10-20 minutes to explore the game on their own or with partners.
  6. Bring the class back to a group discussion. Talk about symbiosis and the role it plays in the game. Also discuss how the game demonstrates that too much of any one bacteria type could be a bad thing, and that a balance in an ecosystem is needed in order for organisms to live in a common space.
  7. Have students brainstorm the different types of bacteria mentioned in the game. Allow students to divide themselves into small groups and select one type of bacteria to research briefly on the internet.
  8. Give students 10 minutes to find information online about how their bacteria type can be helpful and how it can be harmful. Each group should also talk about how they will communicate this information to the class.
  9. Allow each group to present their research. Students should take notes during each presentation so that they can reference their notes during the second round of game play. You may wish to also create a chart with this information for students, writing down summaries of each group's presentation.
  10. Give students 15-20 minutes to play the game independently. Remind them to utilize their notes about the different types of bacteria, and to use what they learned from the BrainPOP resources to help them develop a sustainable ecosystem.

Extension Activities:

Have students explore the other bacteria games and cell games.

Be sure to check out the other Science Games featured in GameUp!