Unit Biodomes

Two photos: Glass domes and greenhouses with a mountain backdrop. A boy and a girl look at the sand, soil, bark and water pool in a clear plastic container.
(left) Biosphere 2 in Arizona, USA, (right) students examine the base of their model biodome.


Students explore the biosphere's environments and ecosystems, learning along the way about the plants, animals, resources and natural cycles of our planet. Over the course of lessons 2-6, students use their growing understanding of various environments and the engineering design process to design and create their own model biodome ecosystems - exploring energy and nutrient flows, basic needs of plants and animals, and decomposers. Students learn about food chains and food webs. They are introduced to the roles of the water, carbon and nitrogen cycles. They test the effects of photosynthesis and transpiration. Students are introduced to animal classifications and interactions, including carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, predator and prey. They learn about biomimicry and how engineers often imitate nature in the design of new products. As everyday applications are interwoven into the lessons, students consider why a solid understanding of one's environment and the interdependence within ecosystems can inform the choices we make and the way we engineer our communities.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

The many facets of biodomes represent a wide range of real-world engineering applications. Engineers design housing, cities and structures for specific environments and ecosystems, using their understanding of the biosphere and ecosystems to shape the human-built environment. Population statistics are important parameters that engineers use to determine the development of open space areas, such as city planning, transportation development, and community water supply needs. Engineers of all disciplines follow the steps of the engineering design process to generate ideas and create prototypes and models. Understanding energy flow and transfer is important for the heat loss/gain of buildings, the fuel to power appliances and tools, meteorological sensors and computer modeling systems. Engineers take advantage of the natural characteristics of plants to improve technologies and make our lives more comfortable, for example, in wastewater treatment processes, air and pollution clean-up, and even solar panels that mimic photosynthesis. Many engineers are directly involved with animals as part of cleaning up chemical spills or restoring habitat. Engineers often use the natural world as inspiration for design, for products such pollution development of antibiotics and healing drugs, as well as the design of sea vessels, airplanes, boats, radar and sonar, medical imaging, and Velcro® - to name a few.

Unit Overview

This unit is comprised of a series of six lessons during which students use their growing understanding of various environments and the engineering design process, to design and create their own model biodome ecosystems. The Procedure section of lesson 2's Biodomes Engineering Design Project: Lessons 2-6 activity provides instructions for the Biodomes unit, lessons 2-6, guiding students through Parts 1-6 to develop their models. Biodome components covered include its structure, environment and energy flow, plants, animals and decomposers. This activity can be conducted as either a very structured or open-ended design.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

See individual lessons and activities for standards alignment.


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Unit Schedule

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/cub_bio_curricularunit] to print or download.

More Curriculum Like This

Upper Elementary Lesson
Go with the Energy Flow

Students learn about energy and nutrient flow in various biosphere climates and environments. They learn about herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, food chains and food webs, seeing the interdependence between producers, consumers and decomposers. This lesson is part of a series of six lessons in whic...

Upper Elementary Activity
Biodomes Engineering Design Project: Lessons 2-6

In this multi-day activity, students explore environments, ecosystems, energy flow and organism interactions by creating a scale model biodome, following the steps of the engineering design process.

Upper Elementary Lesson
Biodomes are Engineered Ecosystems: A Mini World

As students learn about the creation of biodomes, they are introduced to the steps of the engineering design process, including guidelines for brainstorming. They learn how engineers are involved in the design and construction of biodomes and use brainstorming to come up with ideas for possible biod...

Upper Elementary Lesson
Classification Systems: Animals and Engineering

Students are introduced to the classification of animals and animal interactions. This lesson is part of a series of six lessons in which students use their growing understanding of various environments and the engineering design process, to design and create their own model biodome ecosystems.


Pre-Unit Quiz: To conduct an overall pre/post assessment of the Biodomes curricular unit (six lessons, with associated activities), administer the Pre-Unit Quiz to the class before beginning any discussion on Biodomes. Then, after completion of lesson 6, administer the same (post-unit) quiz to the same students and compare pre- to post- scores. In addition, this short quiz is suitable to administer to a control group of students who have not completed the unit, to comparatively test the impact of the curricular unit on learning.

Post-Unit Quiz: If you administered the Pre-unit Quiz before beginning the Biodomes curricular unit, conclude the overall pre/post assessment of the unit (six lessons, with associated activities), by administering the Post-Unit Quiz to the class after concluding lesson 6 and its activity. Compare pre- to post- scores to gauge the impact of the curricular unit on students' learning.


© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado


Christopher Valenti; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Denise W. Carlson

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation (GK-12 grant no 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: April 26, 2020

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