Pond and stream bugs

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This idea is incomplete. Please feel free to add to it at your leisure. The Saint Michael's College students may or may not revisit this one in January 2008, but you should feel free to jump in before then and complete it.

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Biology In Elementary Schools is a Saint Michael's College student project from a course that ran between 2007 and 2010 and fully described in this book chapter. The student-created resources have been preserved here for posterity. Link under 'toolbox' for printer-friendly versions of the exercises. Click on handouts to print full resolution versions. Please see Wikieducator's disclaimer, our safety statement, and the Creative Commons licensing in English and in legalese.

Pond insects; this program not yet fully developed

Student worthiness

Tried and trusted. It is worth noting however, that even though most water bodies contain a number of invertebrate species, not all water bodies contain easily accessible invertebrates, and safety is a very real concern for all involved. We have not developed this idea, or tried it out with grade schoolers in our program because the pond from which we intended to collect the invertebrates was flooded when we arrived (without students in tow of course). However, one of us has run an activity of this sort multiple times with students of all ages and it is generally successful. It is actually better if the students can catch their own bugs rather than having them handed to them. However, in the absence of access and/or time, bringing them in a bucket of mud is not a bad substitute.

Primary biological content area covered

Students will study various insects in ponds and learn about life cycles of insects


For the fieldwork at a pond and a stream:

  • 4-5 buckets
  • 4-5 nets
  • Waders (if available)

For the classroom activity:

  • 4-5 sieves (crochet hoops with window screen work well)
  • Hand lenses (1 for every student, or 1 for every pair of students)
  • 10-12 petri-dishes
  • 10-12 sets of forceps
  • Microscope (if available)


Description of activity

This activity can include a field trip to a local pond, which will help students make the connection to the larger world and to the idea of habitats. If there are time issues or other restrictions on field trips the collecting can be done beforehand by the teacher. To collect a large variety of insects, snails and other invertebrates, use a long "D-style" net intended for aquatic collecting. Insect sweep nets are useless for this task as they are too flimsy. Gently scrape the net under vegetation and along the underwater portion of reeds and cattails and also do a few sweeps into the substrate. Get some dead leaves and some muck, too, as many invertebrates will be found, even if you don't see them until you get into the classroom. Having a plentiful amount of water, muck and vegetation will be crucial in maintaining a food web if you intend to keep the indoor pond going for a couple of weeks in the classroom. Streams and lakes can also be sampled, but the diversity will be low compared to a pond. Vernal pools are rich sources of organisms in spring, but should be sampled sparingly to preserve these important habitats.

Lesson plan

Potential pitfalls

Some students may not want to help in the collection of rocks and mud, or may be afraid to handle the bugs. Depending upon your location and recent weather patterns in your area, it might be hard to obtain adequate bug samples (flooding and excessive ice can inhibit access to bodies of water). There is also the chance that upon obtaining the rocks and mud, you simply have bad luck and there might not be a lot of bugs to observe. However, there are usually at least some bugs present if one looks carefully.

Math connections

Ven diagrams can be drawn based upon the characteristics of the invertebrates collected.

Literature connections

  • "Big Book of Bugs" by Theresa Greenway
  • "Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!" by Bob Barner
  • "Backyard Bugs" by Sue Hubbell
  • "The Bugliest Bug" by Carol Diggory Shields
  • "Song of the water boatman : & other pond poems" Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Beckie Prange

Connections to educational standards

Next steps

Citations and links

Vermont State Grade Expectations can be found at the State of Vermont Department of Education website. [1]