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
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)
  • pond with accessible water among plants, or pond sample rich with life brought into the classroom
  • fine nets (from fish store)
  • large trays, white best, for adding netted animals to
  • pipette and white paint tray (to confine animals to a smaller space for observation)
  • 10x magnifier, or box magnifiers, to see pond life more closely
  • optional: ID sheets e.g. from
  • optional: white board or large paper to draw out food web from pond life
  • cloths for wiping up water spills and mess

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, then use the magnifiers to look at them closely.
Students are assisted in identifying the pond invertebrates they find.

Try these web pages for identification keys:
For Daphnia and similar species, cyclops and shrimp: Page 46 of… Daphnia photo:
For most species you will find: Make sure you click on "arthropods" as you'll find a lot of these, and then "other insect stages" for larger specimens.

Organisms students with me have found:
At Central Park pond, we identified Cyclops, freshwater shrimp, worms and Daphnia. In our back yard pond we identified Daphnia, leeches, caddisfly larvae, cyclops, worms, and sometimes stentor. 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.

Gather as a group and add each organism found to a white board, then with discussion, link who eats who to form a food web.
Simply put, pond organisms eat anything smaller than them. Add microscopic bacteria and algae, eaten by the tiny pond organisms.
Add other animals and plants seen around the pond.
Optional: play bird sounds for local birds noticed.

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Gr 7