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Freshwater Biology

1 Class Session, 1.5 Hours

An old favorite returns with our recently renovated pond and improved equipment! Students get their fill of experiential science methods – testing the chemical composition of our pond water and assessing its health by ponding for various macro and micro invertebrates. Students then apply their observations and knowledge to the real world and gain an understanding of the importance of water conservation.

What’s Covered

Throughout this class, students engage in a variety of activities centered around one question about Pop’s pond—is this ecosystem healthy? Students use 4 of their 5 senses to make observations about the pond and inquire about this ecosystem, perform a series of chemical tests to check the water quality and go ponding with nets and buckets to explore the biodiversity that Pop’s pond has to offer.

Lessons & Activities

Pond Sit

Students explore the shore of Pop’s pond in quiet reflection, using sight, sound, touch and smell to notice key traits of this ecosystem and what questions they might spark.

“A Drop in the Bucket”

Through a demonstration which uses a bucket full of water to represent all the water on Earth, students are shown what proportion of water on Earth is freshwater that is readily usable for plants, animals and humans alike. After eliminating saltwater, groundwater and water locked in glaciers, all that’s left in the bucket (rivers, lakes, ponds, etc.) is but a drop in the bucket! This activity reflects on the choices we can make when it comes to water consumption, especially in a dry climate like Southern California.

Chemical Testing

Students take samples of the pond water and conduct up to five chemical tests, checking for pH level, oxygen content, ammonia content, nitrite content and nitrate content. The test results are then compared to the ideal ranges for sustaining aquatic life, helping to assess the health of the pond. The process of the nitrogen cycle and matter cycling through an ecosystem is also explored during this time.


The activity everyone has been waiting for! Students search for life in Pop’s pond using nets and buckets to retrieve macroinvertebrates, small fish and loose plants for the class to observe. After immersing themselves in the biodiversity of the pond, the class reflects once more on whether the ecosystem of the pond is “healthy.”

Educational Standards

Applicable Common Core/Next Generation Standards:

  • NGSS-MS-ESS2-4: Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
  • NGSS-5-ESS2-2: Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
  • NGSS-MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • NGSS-MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
  • NGSS-MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
  • NGSS-5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, Decomposers, and the environment.
  • HS-LS2-2: Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
  • NGSS-HS-LS2-6: Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
  • NGSS-MS-LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services

Ready to Get Started?

Accelerate your students’ learning with our exciting curriculum. Learn more about this hands-on, experiential education activity today.

Student pours liquid into vial during outdoors Pali class
Raving Reviews

What People Are Saying

I loved my experience at Pali. In my time as an instructor, I was able to develop many skills in the classroom as a teacher and as a leader. I would highly recommend this position for anyone who would like to start a career in the Outdoor Education Industry.

Alicia G., Instructor

Thank you so much for an incredible week. The kids are jazzed; parents are more jazzed. Your team is incredible, and the planning and execution for a top notch science/outdoor education/leadership camp is celebrated. We are so glad we found you.

Danielle V., Teacher

Impressive! This is our first time to Pali. I have taken students to four other SoCal science camps and I would highly recommend Pali and plan to return next year.

Janice K., Educator

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