Lesson Plan

Wetland Habitat on the Trace

Flowering plant found at Rock Spring
Flowering plant found on Rock Spring Nature Trail, Milepost 330.3
NPS Photo


The students will be visiting a National Scenic Trail and identifying the plants and animals found in wetlands.  In the classroom, students will become familiar with the term wetlands and discuss the role that each organism plays in a wetland ecosystem.


Enduring Understanding: Wetlands have an ecological importance to the environment.

Essential Question: How do wetlands affect local ecology?

Biology I: Investigate and evaluate the interaction between living organisms and their environment. 3b. Provide examples to justify the interdependence among environmental elements. Biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem Energy flow in ecosystems Interrelationships among organisms


The students will visit a National Scenic Trail and identify the plants and animals found in wetlands. In the classroom, students will become familiar with the term wetlands and discuss the role that each organism plays in a wetland ecosystem. What are wetlands? According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, wetlands are defined as "lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities living in the soil and on its surface."

Field guides being used:

"The Vascular Flora of the Natchez Trace Parkway", February 2008: www. nps.gov Kirkman, Katherine L, Donald J. Leopold and Claud L. Brown.

Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identificaton Guide. Timber Press, Inc. 2007. Watts, May Theilgaard.

Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves. Nature Study Guild Publishers. 1963. Cox, Donald and Shirley A. Peron (illustrator).

A Naturalist's Guide to Wetland Plants: An Ecology for Eastern North America. Syracuse University, Press. 2002. Watts, May Theilgaard and Tom Watts.

Winter Tree Finder, Vol. 1. Nature Study Guild Publisher. 1970. Conant, Roger, Joseph T. Collins, Isabelle Hunt Conant and Tom R. Johnson.

A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series). Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1998.


Each student will need a notebook, pencil, and a field guide for plants and animals (see resources).


Student Task: Students will use a field guide of plants and animals and list in their notebook the type of plants and animals species that were identified on the National Scenic Trail.

Student Instruction: Students will be identifying the type of plants and animals found in a wetland ecosystem. Prior to the field trip, students should have knowledge of the vocabulary terms on ecology in the textbook.


1) Learn why a wetland is ecologically important to the environment

2) Learn how to use a field guide

3) Identify plant and animal species in a wetland

In classroom:

First 30 minutes: Ranger-led presentation of wetland information, including wetland terms and the role that each organism plays in a wetland ecosystem

Last 30 minutes: Ranger-led review of wetland information and tutorial of field guide for the field portion of the program.

In the field: Students will identify plant and animal species using a field guide on the National Scenic Trail

Instructions for using a field guide:

1.) Determine if the general classification of the species (reptile, amphibian, tree, plant, etc.)

2.) Try to identify the potential species by the pictures in the guide

3.) Read the physical descriptions of the potential species in the guide carefully (color pattern, scales, leaf shape, bark patterns etc.)

4.) Look at the ranges of the potential species

5.) Look at the habitats of the potential species from the field guide

6.) Identify the species by determining the specimen's physical characteristics, range, and habitat

Teacher Closure: Explain to the students that wetlands play a vital role in the world in which we live; not only do they provide habitat for many species of plants and animals, but they help to improve the quality of the water that we drink and use every day.


The student participated in the activity: the student has made a list of species he/she identified on the field trip using the field guide

Park Connections

The Natchez Trace Parkway contains many different wetlands, including parts of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. Many different plant and animal species are located in these wetlands.


Use wetlands as an example of an ecological niche, and describe community interactions within a wetland. Discuss how a wetland is an ecosystem and the energy flow it facilitates.

Additional Resources

Some trails on the Natchez Trace Parkway that contain wetlands:

Cypress Swamp located @ mp 122.0

Riverbend located @ mp 122.6

Myrick Creek located @ mp 145.1

Cole Creek located @ mp 175.6

Donivan Slough located @ mp 283.3

Rock Spring located @ mp 330

There are many others that include access to streams. 


Wetland, ecosystem, community, population, organism