Pond Muck Exploration

Submitting Organization: Lawrence Hall of Science

Grade Level: Kindergarten

Subject Area:  Science

Standards Alignment: Next Generation Science Standards

Throughout this activity, students build toward PE K-LS1-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.  Specifically, they use the Science and Engineering Practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data.

Description of the Activity: As a class, students discuss questions they have and make predictions about what they will see when they explore pond muck (mud). Each student uses a magnifier to observe their own sample of pond muck and draws what they observe: small organisms, mud, dead leaves, etc. The class comes back together to share their observations and try to answer the class’ questions about pond muck.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is pond muck made of?
  • What kinds of animals live in pond muck?
  • Could we answer any of the questions we came up with at the beginning of class?
  • Describe the living things you saw in the pond muck. (Many students may want to name the things they saw, e.g., worm, starfish, snake. Since they won’t know the actual names of organisms, it’s easier to record descriptions of what they observed rather than names. For example, “star-shaped animal” rather than starfish. Sometimes students think hydras are starfish or worms are sea snakes. You can even explain that scientists don’t name things until they have more information.)

Resources Needed:

  • Make copies for all students of a sheet that reads, “Pond Muck Observations”
  • Collect some muck from a nearby pond or lake by scraping some mud and detritus up with a shovel or scoop from the side of the pond/lake – the muckier, the better. Make sure to save some water as well. You can save it in a container in the refrigerator until the day you use it. You should get enough muck that each student will be able to have about 1/4-1/3 cup to themselves.
  • Enough small, shallow containers for each student to have one (white or clear are best). Petri dishes also work.
  • Enough magnifiers for each student. [Note: At this age, students usually need quite a bit of practice with hand lenses. You can either take the time to support them now by having them practice looking at things like their fingers and pencils, or you could use bug boxes or viewing scopes instead.]
  • On the day of the exploration, partially fill the small containers with pond muck – not so full that they’ll spill with shaking.
  • Pencil for each student
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers for each student

Link to further resources: