Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Is There Life in a Decomposing Log?


Studying decomposing logs helps students understand physical changes, cycles, and relationships among species. Students explore the biodiversity of species and the relationships between natural forces and species in an ecosystem. Scientific skills at this level include close observation of nature to describe, collect, organize, and analyze scientific data. Mathematical skills include the measurement and graphing of data to document and communicate scientific evidence.


Investigate a log habitat to:

  1. Understand the different classes/processes of a log’s decomposition cycle.
  2. Identify the types of species living in a log habitat.
  3. Understand the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers.
  4. Collect and document decomposition data through drawings and graphs.
  5. Analyze the data to determine effects these species have on each other and their habitat.

Let's Get Started

Step 1

Print out all worksheets and datasheets. Each student will likely need a copy.

Step 2

Follow the link below to the first step of the online student lesson.