About AE   About NHM   Contact Us   Terms of Use   Copyright Info   Privacy Policy   Advertising Policies   Site Map
Custom Search of AE Site
spacer spacer

The Water Drop Project

By Suzanne Cassidy

Type of entry: Project

  • Type of activity:
  • hands-on activity
  • group/cooperative learning
  • community outreach/off-site activity
  • review/reinforcement

Target audience:

  • Life Science
  • Biology

Background information:

This activity is intended to help students discover the microorganisms that live in water. They will learn the structures and life functions of protists and recognize the similarities between them and multicellular organisms. The project is a "learn by teaching" activity for the high school students who are its practitioners. The activity begins with a microorganism survey lab for the 10th graders, then progresses through a planning and creating stage to the culminating activity that is to visit elementary schools to teach these children about "what's in a drop of water." Both sets of students learn much more about the unseen world in water.

The high school students are required to a) participate in the survey lab and complete a series of questions that accompany each part of the lab; b) prepare a research paper on a microorganism (or an organism small enough so that it is best viewed under a microscope); c) view a series of videos and be responsible for the information in them; d) participate in the preparation of a team project to be presented to elementary students; and d) travel with the class to present their projects. The entire process takes about 3 weeks, not including the visits to schools. The time spent on school visits may be as little as 45 minutes or as much as several school days depending on the teacher's decision. Preparation time for this activity is about nine hours. This includes ordering and culturing microorganisms, preparing labs, writing up evaluation sheets, and making reservations for school visits if the teacher wishes to do so (I had my students do this part of the preparation as well.)

Teachers should be aware that this is intended to be a student-driven activity. Teachers have the hardest job of all--to sit back and say to their students, "This is your project. You decide what to do." It is important to provide lots of resources for students to utilize during this process, such as videos, books, magazines, prepared slides and photos of microorganisms, examples of different types of craft ideas, and any other resources to help spark ideas. A variety of organisms, some microscopes, and slide materials out on the lab tables at all times will enable students to become more familiar with the microorganisms and equipment before they "take their show on the road."


This project is intended to produce a student-created teaching unit to be presented by tenth grade students to elementary school children in grades 1-4. The unit includes self-standing visual aids, a packet of activities for the children to do after the program is completed, a set of activities to be done with the children during the class, and evaluation sheets that will be filled out by the teachers whose classes are involved and by each of the students who present the unit. An Internet homepage will also be created as part of the unit. All parts of the unit are student-created.

The unit will acquaint grade-school students with the presence of fresh-water microorganisms. During a microscope lab, activities (such as feeding) of a variety of microorganisms that mirror those activities of living things in the familiar world are observed in several types of microscopes. High school presenters emphasize that while their bare eyes can't necessarily see anything in a drop of water, students can discover that a whole world exists there when they look very close. Other activities included may be: warm-up (a skit or puppet show); introduction of organisms using a prepared display; a station using student-created videos and/or a slide show; a craft activity; and a rap or song for closing.

Overview of program:

The purpose of this program is to produce a teaching unit that is student-created and carried out. The unit will be presented to elementary school children in grades 1-4 by 10th grade students who also prepare all of the activities in the unit. The unit includes a self-standing visual aid, a packet of activities for the children to do after the program is completed, a set of activities which will be done with the children during the class, and evaluation sheets which will be filled out after the unit is completed by the teacher whose class is involved and by each of the students who present the unit. Preparation for the unit is a part of the regular class assignments, but teaching the unit is optional and a sign-up sheet is available to the students.

The purpose of the unit itself is to acquaint grade-school students with some of the microorganisms that live in water. The students learn how to use stereo and monocular microscopes to view paramecia, didinia, amoebas, volvoxes, and daphnia. High school presenters will emphasize that while you can't necessarily see anything in a drop of water with your naked eye, you will discover that a whole world exists there when you look very closely. Activities included may be: an introductory play or puppet show introducing the microorganisms used in the project; a prepared backboard display illustrating the microorganisms and giving important information about each one; a microscope lab using stations for viewing each type of organism under the appropriate type of microscopy; an art/craft activity; and a rap for closing. In addition, a coloring booklet and certificate of participation will be provided to each elementary student who completes the activity. If possible, students may want to prepare a Homepage for the World Wide Web which would enable them to provide further microorganism information when needed.

Outline of project:

Materials needed: Variety of sources of information about microorganisms including videos, books, pictures/drawings, articles, catalogues; both stereo and monocular microscopes and slides; cultures of a variety of microorganisms; a wide variety of arts and crafts materials; computers if available for word processing, graphics, etc.; an Internet account and access to the World Wide Web if the class decides to do a Homepage.

  1. Introduce concept to students--Discuss purpose of unit, benefits for both high school and elementary school students.

  2. Describe each area of project.

    • Individual research papers on microorganisms in the water

    • Group projects

    • Class participation grade

    • School visits

  3. View tapes on microorganisms for background information.

  4. Prepare a survey lab which requires students to observe microorganisms, study their body structures, and observe their activities.

  5. Divide class into groups--students sign up according to interest:

    • Write script for oral part of presentation

    • Design backboard and prepare presentation to accompany it

    • Write accompanying booklet/coloring book text illustrations

    • Order and maintain organisms

    • Design letterhead, write letters to introduce programs to teachers, maintain schedules for presentations

    • Prepare microscopes, etc. for each presentation

    • Make slide set/overhead set for presentation

    • Create World Wide Web homepage for "microorganisms"

    • Prepare microscope lab for use with elementary students

    • Create art/craft activity for elementary students to do during visit

  6. Set up school schedule and carry out program during visits.

    Students participating in this project will:

    • Write a brief research paper on one of the selected organisms which will then be used in the preparation of the unit. (30 points)

    • Select an area which they will participate in for the duration of the unit (5 points)

    • Complete each of the requirements for their selected activity in a satisfactory manner (75 points)

    • Work cooperatively with the members of their individual teams and with class members during the preparation of this unit. (50 points)

    • Support the other members of their teams and the class with constructive help when necessary (part of the participation evaluation).


Please answer each of the following questions. Circle the answer where appropriate.

  1. Did you feel that this unit was a worthwhile activity? Yes No

  2. Which part of the overall activity did you enjoy most (including the preparation)?

  3. Which part did you enjoy least?

  4. Please rank the parts of the presentation in order according to which you felt were most effective (1) to those you felt were least effective (6)

    ______microscope activities    ______play    ______rap    
    ______art/craft  _______backboard   _______face painting

  5. Were there any parts of the presentation which you think could be improved upon? Yes No If yes, tell what you think should be changed. (Use the back of this paper for your reply)

  6. Have you thought of any activities we could add to this presentation? If so, please describe them.

  7. Did you enjoy your interaction with the children? Yes No Please enlarge upon your response, including which grades you felt responded best and least. Describe any special problems and/or good points which you encountered.

  8. Did you feel that the teachers were generally pleased to have us there?
    Yes  No

    Please explain if necessary.

  9. What do you feel that you personally gained from doing this unit? Please explain.

    Thank you for filling out this questionnaire. I will include your honest responses in my final report which will accompany this unit. You may sign this sheet if you wish, or your answers may remain anonymous.

    Fellows Collection Index

    1996 AE Collection Index

    Activities Exchange Index

Custom Search on the AE Site