School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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For Teachers

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  • Phytoplankton: photosynthetic plankton that are usually microscopic and are also called “algae"... more
  • Plankton: a group of free floating organisms living in water that includes many kinds of plants and animals... more
  • Zooplankton: small, sometimes microscopic animals that live in water and feed on phytoplankton (algae), other zooplankton, or detritus (dead material)... more

Teaching Tips

This is an interdisciplinary lesson that integrates science and math. This activity can be done using the “Plankton Zoom Gallery” or by collecting your own samples of pond water. You decide what is best for your students.

Tips for Classroom Implementation

Time Required: 50 minutes (2 50 minute class periods if you plan on collecting your own pond water and sketching them as you view them under a microscope.)

Classroom set-up:

  • Zoom Gallery Option: Reserve the computer lab for this day. Each pair of students will need a computer so they can access the Plankton Zoom Gallery. Students should be supplied with a couple pieces of white printer paper and a pencil with an eraser.
  • Plankton Collection Option: Students will need access to pond water (a nearby pond where you can collect as a class, or it can be supplied by the teacher). Each pair of students will need a microscope to view the plankton. Students should be supplied with a couple pieces of white printer paper and a pencil with an eraser.

Tips:

  • This activity can be done independently but I have found it works best in pairs.
  • Read Invisible Watery World as a class before beginning this activity. It will teach students about varieties of plankton and their role in aquatic ecosystems.
  • It is a good idea to start with a practice sketch of a familiar item. This lets students practice the detail in which they are sketching. Bring in a fish, apple, plant, soccer ball, or class pet and model the detail in which the students should sketch. This is also a great time to introduce scale.
  • It is a challenge for some students to find and focus in on live, moving plankton. You can complete this activity in two days, the first day sketch plankton from the Zoom Gallery and the second sketch live plankton.

Extensions:

  • Select 4 different varieties of plankton and do the activity again. If you are feeling ambitious, sketch ALL the varieties of plankton in the Zoom Gallery and arrange them from the smallest to largest!
  • This activity can be used along with the “It’s a Plankton Eat Plankton World” food web activity. After both activities are complete, students can create a double bubble comparing and contrasting zooplankton and phytoplankton. (print thinking map worksheet. or maybe interactive?)
  • If you used the Plankton Zoom Gallery to complete your sketches the first time, now try the activity with live plankton. Go collect a sample from a local pond!

Objectives:

  1. Students will acquire the skill of scientific sketching
  2. Students will use scale bars to sketch the plankton varieties in proportion to one another.
  3. ***EXTENSION: Students will compare and contrast the sizes and feeding relationships of plankton.

Standards


Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ETS1-2.

  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS1-3

  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ETS1-4.

  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Common Core Standards

Speaking and Listening

  • Grades: 6-8.SL.4. Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • Grades: 6-8.SL.5. Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, and sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.
  • Grades: 9-10.SL.4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
  • Grades: 9-10.SL.5. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

Reading Literacy and Technical Subjects

  • Grades: 6-8.RST.3. Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks. 
  • Grades: 9-10.RST.3. Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

EXTENSION: 6-8.RST.9. Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

EXTENSION: 9-10.RST.9. Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.


Arizona Science Standards

Strand 1: Inquiry Process

Concept 2: Scientific Testing (Investigating and Modeling)

Grade 6         

  • PO 4.  Perform measurements using appropriate scientific tools (e.g. microscopes).
  • PO 5. Keep a record of observations, notes, sketches, questions, and ideas using tools such as written and/or computer logs.

Grade 7

  • PO 4.  Perform measurements using appropriate scientific tools (e.g. microscopes).
  • PO 5. Keep a record of observations, notes, sketches, questions, and ideas using tools such as written and/or computer logs.

Grade 8         

  • PO 4.  Perform measurements using appropriate scientific tools (e.g. microscopes).
  • PO 5. Keep a record of observations, notes, sketches, questions, and ideas using tools such as written and/or computer logs.

Grades 9-12 

  • PO 5.  Record observations, notes, sketches, questions, and ideas using tools such as journals, charts, graphs, and computers. 

Strand 1: Inquiry Process

Concept 3: Analysis and Conclusions

Grade 6         

  • PO 1. Analyze data obtained in a scientific investigation to identify trends. 

Grade 7         

  • PO 1. Analyze data obtained in a scientific investigation to identify trends. 

Grade 8         

  • PO 1. Analyze data obtained in a scientific investigation to identify trends. 

Grades 9-12

  • PO 1. Interpret data that show a variety of possible relationships between variables.

Strand 1: Inquiry Process

Concept 4: Communication

Grade 6

  • PO 2. Display data collected from a controlled investigation.

Grade 7         

  • PO 2. Display data collected from a controlled investigation. 

Grade 8         

  • PO 3. Present analyses and conclusions in clear, concise format.  

Grades 9-12

  • PO 3. Communicate results clearly and logically.

 
 

Colleen Miks received her Bachelors of Science in Fisheries Biology from Humboldt State University. She received her Masters of Education from Plymouth State University and teaches Earth and Space Science at Sossaman Middle School in Gilbert Arizona.

 

Invisible watery world

This activity has a companion article on Plankton. Discover an Invisible Watery World in water full of creatures too small to be seen!

 

Download the Catch & Sketch Plankton Experiment (PDF).

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow up  Learn More

Invisible watery world

This activity has a companion article on Plankton. Discover an Invisible Watery World in water full of creatures too small to be seen!

 

Download the Catch & Sketch Plankton Experiment (PDF).

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.