An ecosystem is a complex of both living and nonliving things, as well as the interactions between them. Each interaction may impact the rest of the system. For example, a decomposer changes the soil when it digests the remains of an organism. In turn, this change impacts the surrounding plants. Examining a site from an ecosystems point of view can deepen our appreciation of it. We might not only see a tree, but also recognize its connections to its surroundings.
The cranberry marsh system is more than just cultivated vines. It is a particular wetland ecosystem which includes fields, forests, streams, ponds, and several species of animals, plants, and insects. In the activity, “Welcome to the Marsh,” students found and categorized both living and nonliving things. The actual system within which their school is located will present both commonalities with, and differences from, the marsh. By comparing and contrasting both sites, students can achieve a greater understanding of ecosystems as a whole and these unique systems in particular.