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Pond dipping

Collect pond life and observe closely with a magnifier, and microscopes if available. Identify what you can. Pond water also can be studied in a tub in the classroom.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Biology: Life Cycles (2)
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Science topic (2005 curriculum connection): 
Life Science: Characteristics of Living Things (grade K)
Life Science: Needs of Living Things (grade 1)
Life Science: Habitats and Communities (grade 4)
Life Science: Diversity of Life (grade 6)
Life Science: Ecosystems (grade 7)
  • pond with accessible water among plants, or pond sample rich with life brought into the classroom
  • nets
  • box magnifiers, or white tray
  • toothpicks to point out small pond animals and to remove debris from box magnifiers
  • 10x loupe to see pond life more closely
  • optional: flashlight to illuminate samples while observing
  • optional: image of Daphnia showing body parts including eggs, gut, eye
  • optional: if dipping from a pond, map of pond to draw what is found with location on map - see Jericho pond attachment

Find a good collection site at the pond. Around the base of plants, rather than open water, tends to be more fruitful.
Fill a large tray with pond water for each student group.
Using a fine net, students scoop from the pond or stream near to plants then invert the net into the large tray.

Alternatively, the teacher collects pond water samples and brings them into the classroom in white tubs (so that the contents can be seen easily).

Students transfer organisms they find in the large tray to smaller trays with a pipette.
Students are assisted in identifying the pond invertebrates they find.
Optional pond identification key at Pond Life Identification Kit on “Micascapes”
Body parts of Daphnia can be viewed under magnification and compared to a labelled diagram (I used the one on the Micascapes website).

Organisms found:
At Central Park pond, we identified Cyclops, freshwater shrimp, worms and Daphnia. In our back yard pond we identified Daphnia, leeches, caddisfly larvae and worms. At Jericho we identified Daphnia, water beetles, water boatmen, worms and shrimp. At Trout Lake we found Daphnia, worms, mosquito larvae, water mites, mayfly nymphs or something similar. Water plants and seeds also caught may be identified.
Ingrid's pond commonly has Daphnia, leeches, thin red worms, caddisfly larvae, sometimes stentor.

All students take notes on what they found, or gather as a group and discuss findings.
e.g. Jericho pond map attachment - students drew what they found in the circle and added an arrow to the location that it was caught at.

If the activity is part of a lesson on habitats and food chains, add each organism found to a white board, then with discussion, link who eats who to form a food web.
This can be done before this pond dipping activity also, with the animals and plants visible above the water, then later linked to those found living in the water.


Magnifiers and Microscopes is a good companion activity.

Grades tested: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 7
Barbara Duncan
Becky Evermon
Brenda Koch
Daphne Gurney
Diane Merchant
Fiona Laporte
Julie Kawaguchi
Lindsay Izat
Nina Hooker
Patricia Ellis
Taz Ismail
Teaching site: 
Aboriginal Focus Elementary
Carnarvon Elementary
Eton Arrowsmith Camp
General Gordon Elementary Science Club
ingridscience afterschool
Laurier Elementary
Tyee Elementary
Weir Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Scientist in Residence Program, Vancouver School District with teachers Ms. Kawaguchi and Ms. Merchant.
This activity is part of the Scientist in Residence lesson plan