KS4 Biology: Freshwater ecosystem investigation

Students undertake a freshwater ecology investigation in the wetland area at Wakehurst.

The board walk sweeping across the Wetlands at Wakehurst


Key Stage 4


90 minutes - 2 hours

Allocated space

20 students per group


Students study freshwater ecology using the wetland areas at Wakehurst. Using pond dipping techniques they sample the living organisms of the wetlands and measure abiotic factors. The creatures found can be looked at more closely in the study centre in order to consider adaptations to life in water and to construct food chains and simple food webs.

The freshwater investigation is part of a half day or full day visit that is tailored to suit the needs of your group and planned in detail prior to the visit.

Learning outcomes

School visits at Wakehurst support and enhance the curriculum offered in schools and colleges. We aim to give students opportunities that are difficult or impossible to create in the school or college environment. We design our sessions to match the learning outcomes of the National Curriculum and GCSE specification.

Students will have the opportunity to:

  • Identify pond invertebrates.
  • Observe adaptations for aquatic life.
  • Measure abiotic factors.
  • Use pond animals as pollution indicators.
  • Investigate water quality.
  • Explore the interdependence of plants and animals in an ecosystem.
  • Construct food webs.
  • Consider the impact of humans on wetlands.

Curriculum links 

KS4 National Curriculum

  • Levels of organisation within an ecosystem.
  • Some abiotic and biotic factors which affect communities; the importance of interactions between organisms in a community.
  • How materials cycle through abiotic and biotic components of ecosystems.
  • The role of microorganisms (decomposers) in the cycling of materials through an ecosystem.
  • Organisms are interdependent and are adapted to their environment.
  • The importance of biodiversity.
  • Methods of identifying species and measuring distribution, frequency and abundance of species within a habitat.
  • Positive and negative human interactions with ecosystems.

Links to GCSE specification

The specifications for exam boards vary. When you book a school visit at Wakehurst, let us know which exam board you are using and we will work with you to tailor the session for your students.

  • OCR Gateway Science Biology A B 4.1 Ecosystems.
  • OCR Twenty First Century Science Suite - Biology B Chapter B3: Living together – food and ecosystems.
  • Edexcel Topic 9 – Ecosystems and material cycles.
  • AQA 4.7 Ecology.
A wide shot of the winter garden

Key Stage 4 sessions

Engaging and hands-on curriculum-linked activities taught by experienced and enthusiastic Kew teachers.