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Project title or topic of activity

Fresh Water Science

Author(s): Betty Moore

Date: Fall 1999


Summary of Activity
50-100 words

This activity is designed to introduce hands on science to the classroom. Students will take a field trip to a local pond and collect samples of water and organisms to take back to the classroom. Students will design and set up a pond aquarium in the classroom. Students will discuss what the Scientific Method is and how it is used. Students will develop observations skills by watching the pond aquarium and keeping a journal.


Grade levels

5-7 grade level.

General description or introduction
The scientific principles that the activity is founded on.

Students will use the Scientific Method to ask questions regarding pond ecology. Creating a fresh water aquarium in the classroom is a great way to introduce science to students. Students can obtain observation skills which are important to all developing scientist.

Background information

Earth is the only planet know to have running water and over 71% of the earth is covered in water. Water is always on a continuous cycle creating different habitats on its way. Each habitat contains a unique community of plants, animals and other organisms that have adapted to meet the challenges of their environment. Fresh water environments include lakes, marshes, rivers, streams, ponds and pools which may consist of stagnant water. Fresh water communities have a relatively low level of ions in the water, mainly salt, and tends to have more suspended material which sometimes gives it a murky appearance.

Running water can flow and drain into areas creating large lakes or can branch into smaller and smaller lakes. When the flow of water begins to slow, it forms the small ponds or pools that compose standing water. Ponds tend to be small, shallow bodies of water that have sunlight penetrating all parts. Many different organisms live and thrive in small fresh water ponds or pools. These organism range from microscopic bacteria to developing insects, algae and mosses cover rocks and banks, fish (eggs and larva stages), snails, amphibians (larva and development stages), plants and countless number of other organisms. Each pond creates its on ecosystem in which all the organism survive.

Creating a fresh water aquarium in the classroom is a great way to introduce science to students. However, for an aquarium to succeed there must always be the right amount of food, oxygen (provided by a pump), water salinity, chemical balance and temperature. There are many books located in the library or pet store that provide useful information on maintaining an aquarium. Creating a fresh water aquarium in the classroom allows the teacher to pick different topics to discuss.

What is the Scientific Method?

1. Observation
Start with an observation (for example: a pond) and allow students to ask causal (why something happens) questions.

2. Proposed explanation
Listing possible explanations for what was observed

3. Experiment
Create experiments that can test the possible explanations

4. Expected results
List what the expected results should be (predictions).

5. Actual Results
Collect and analyze data.

6. Conclusion
Does data support the proposed explanation?

Credit for the activity

Fresh water science was my original idea. However, I did internet research and found a site with "Pond Science". This site also included other ideas and lesson plans. ""

Estimated time to do the activity


Goals of Activity:

Goal A
Introduce the Scientific Method.

Goal B
Allow students to make observations and record them in journals.

Goal C
Set up aquarium in the classroom.

Goal D
Discover what types of life are found in ponds and understand ecosystems.


National Science Education Standards. (NSES)

Two content standards that this lesson plan covers:

Standard 1

Identify questions that can be answered through Scientific Investigations.

In "Fresh Water Science", students make observations on the aquarium and collect informatin in journals. They then ask questions about what they see.

Standard 2


Materials Needed

  • Aquarium 20 gallon glass tank
  • air pump,
  • gravel and undergravel filter
  • Large rocks (for cover)
  • Various habitat material of your choice (live plants, wood, etc)
  • Collected samples from local pond (or store)
  • Microscopes (slides, solutions ect)
  • Magnifying glass
  • Water test kits (optional)
  • Journal material
  • Paper
  • Stapler
  • Cover material


Schedule a field trip to a local pond and make copies of the Treasure Hunt worksheet.

Obtain materials need to create a fresh water aquarium. Kits are usually available for about $65.00.

Allow students to help set up an aquaruim which must sit for at least a week with bacterial supplement before having organisims added to it.

Create aquarium tank with desired habitat,
a. Set up tank with gravel, air pump and undergravel filter.
b. Add water and declorinators to remove any chlorine.
c. Add habitat to the tank such as plants and rocks.

Step-by-Step Procedure for the Activity

I. Pond Field
1. Allow students to collect samples of water to take back to the classroom. Murky water works best because once the suspend material settles out, the water seems to "come alive" with all different kinds of life.
2. Use the sample worksheet to direct students on a "Pond Treasure Hunt".
Sample Worksheet (for Field Trip):

On this field trip each group will be responsible for locating ten different plants and animals. Each person must also include location where organism was found and what each Animal or Plant (common name), Location & Observations.

Animal or Plant (common name)


II. In the classroom
1. Discuss the Scientific Method
2. Add collected samples from the pond field trip and include small fish, tadpoles and snails.
3. Have students observe the aquarium with the use microscopes and magnifying glasses for ten minute and note any observations in the science journal. (repeat for one week)
4. Have students include one causal question for every entry a. What types of organisms live in a pond? b. Can the students identify any of the organisms?
5. Have students make predictions about what type of organisms they are observing.
6. Have students continue to make observations and collect data on the progress of the organism.
7. What are the adult organisms?

Images, work sheets, additional web pages

{none available}

Items for discussion or conclusion

1st question

How does a pond function as an ecosystem?

2nd question
Why do scientist make observations?

3rd question
Are all predictions supported? Why?

4th question
What type of ecosystem do we live in?


Creating a fresh water aquarium in the classroom is a great way to introduce science to students and it allows the teacher to pick different topics to discuss. Discuss what an ecosystem is and what humans do to effect them.

Beyond the Activity
Further activities which relate to and extend the complexity of the experiment.

Have students design experiments and present results to the class.

Possible experiments

What does pond water look like under a microscope? How does temperature, light, oxygen, food, and/or pollution effect a pond? How long does it take for insects to develop from larvae to adults?

Web Resources
A web address with information on the topic of the activity.

Web Address

Additional References

Burnie, David. How Nature Works. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1991.