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Wetland Metaphors



This hands-on activity is designed to help young students understand the importance of wetland ecosystems.  Specific wetland functions are represented by a collection of common household items.  For example a sponge is used to illustrate the ability of a wetland to prevent floods.  Through the application of a variety of similar metaphors, students visualize in concrete terms how wetlands function and why we need to protect them.

Students will:

  • discuss the importance of wetlands
  • learn what a mataphor is
  • Take turns removing items from a Mystery Metaphor Container
  • Explain the relationship between the item and a wetland
  • Explore their attitudes towards wetlands.

It is recommended that this activity be used in conjunction with a  field trip to a local wetland.

In this fun-filled activity, students learn to appreciate the many important contributions made by our wetlands.  Using common household objects as symbols or metaphors for different wetland functions, teams of student compete in a relay-style race that requires their ability to match function to symbol.

This activity is designed in such away that it can be enjoyed indoors or out.

This activity provides a fun-filled way to introduce students to the important contributions made by our wetlands.  

Teachers use common household objects to illustrate some of the important contributions these ecosystems perform.  Following the demonstration & discussion, teams of students compete in a relay-style race that tests their ability to connect function to symbol.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

This resource does not teach skills.


  • The lesson has great potential for integrating poetry and art. 
  • The use of the metaphor to compare the wetland functions to everyday objects is a unique and engaging approach.
  • Good background information is provided. 


  • The resource does not include opportunities for action.
  • Examples of poetry or stories on the topic of wetlands which can be used as part of the lesson to spark interest are not included. 
  • Suggestions to share the work through publication or display are not mentioned.
  • A rubric for evaluating the writing of the metaphor is not included.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

Ecosystems (5)

  • Appreciating the Natural World
  • Biodiversity
  • Endangered Species
  • Habitat Loss
  • Wildlife Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The activity includes discussion of different points of view in addressing the issues.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

This is a short lesson with emphasis on the environmental aspects of wetlands via metaphors and visualization.   Other dimensions of problems and solutions are addressed through the discussion relating to the metaphor mystery container activity.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

Complexity of problems will emerge through discussion and discovering comparisons between wetlands and everyday objects.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

This is more of a lesson to create awareness through use of metaphors of a wetland.  It does not include authentic action experience.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

This is not considered in the resource.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

The activity could take place in or outside the classroom. It is recommended this lesson be taught after a field trip to a wetland.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

If the effort is made to visit a local wetland. Also, the post activities- poetry writing and art- can help make the learning relevant to the lives of the learners.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

A description is provided as background information of what a wetland is but a history of wetlands or a vision for the future are not included in this resource. 

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

This is provided through discussion and experimenting with the mystery metaphor container.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Elements of Language Arts and Science are are incorporated into this resource along with drawing and painting in the extension activities.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

By using the mystery metaphor container students discover and make comparisons between wetlands and everyday objects.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Students work in groups and the open-ended approach could provide for different learning styles.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students can work in groups during the mystery metaphor activity.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

A copy of the wetland metaphors activity page is available for students and may be used as an evaluation tool.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

This may occur during group work.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered

This is not considered in this resource.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered

This is not considered in the core activities of this resource.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.