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Aquatic Ecosystems: Fifth Grade Fall Unit
Revised Sept. 21, 2012

Unit Goals
We are surrounded by lakes, streams, marshes, ponds, and other aquatic ecosystems, each of which are affected by, and thus a reflection of, our society's activities as well as the plants and animals that live there. Furthermore, the condition of our waters in turn impacts our lives in a number of ways. In this unit the students will recognize these interactions by studying River Bend's water bodies, making an assessment of their current conditions, and then gathering further information to gauge various impacts that can cause change over time.

This unit is specifically designed to address appropriate AAAS Project 2061 benchmarks as well as fifth grade Minnesota Academic Science Standards. Download lesson plan here. Please email us for more information.

Summary

Before your visit, please review with your students:

  • Basic principles of scientific investigation
  • The aquatic habitats that can be found in Minnesota and elsewhere
  • The general types of tests and observations that we will be making during the visit
  • Importance of dressing for the day's weather conditions

At River Bend:

  • A worksheet will be used (download here).
  • During the introduction we will review the above material
  • Students will be divided into teams, about 4-5 students per team, but no more than six groups per classroom.
  • Progress through various tests and activities to closely examine one of two different aquatic habitats at River Bend, the Prairie Pond or the Turtle Pond (in case of dry years we will use the Big Woods spring or Hidden Ponds.)
    • Vegetation survey
    • Animal survey
    • Weather conditions
    • Water properties
      • temperature
      • depth
      • turbidity/transparency
    • Water chemistry (download indicator sheet)
      • Dissolved oxygen
      • pH
    • Hand's-on design challenge to build and test a water filter
    • Chart, map, and discuss results

In closing we will:

  • inquire about students' results and provide local perspective
  • review some societal choices involved in maintaining healthy aquatic habitats
  • remind the students of their next visit
  • talk of upcoming events at River Bend
  • invite the students to return on their own with family and friends

Back in the classroom:

  • Diagram the wetlands at River Bend using the data collected. The book One Small Square: Pond has a good example.
  • Monitor results from other classes and from previous years (as available here)
  • Research aquatic habitat stewardship issues.


Aquatic Ecosystems

Aquatic Ecosystems

Aquatic Ecosystems

What is an aquatic ecosystem?

Aquatic systems are those that contain plants and animals that predominantly depend on a significant amount of water to be present for at least part of the year. But a perfect definition is tough to make. How many weeks a year does an area need to show standing water in order to be a pond? How about a bird bath or dog water dish, as both can breed aquatic insects if left undisturbed for a few days? For our purposes, we have a number of aquatic systems that hold water all year (in most cases) and are impacted to different degrees by activities on the surrounding landscape.

What are a few components of an aquatic ecosystem?

pond layers - Like in a forest, the top, middle, and bottom of a pond can be vastly different from each other, and even the layers in between. Under different temperature or light conditions the water in a pond can vary greatly in oxygen, clarity, and other factors that affect where plants and animals might live. The air above the pond and the land below the pond are important as well, as those provide space for animals to live, plants to root, and predators and prey to interact.

diversity - while many people think of a pond as just a small lake with frogs and fish, there are thousands of differents species of plants and animals living together in a natural pond. The more diverse a pond is (more species that it has) the stronger and healthier it is.

micro-organisms - some of the most imortant plants and animals in a pond are so small they are difficult to see without a microscope. They are called "micro-organisms" (micro=small, organism=life form) and while a few may cause disease, almost all are very beneficial and important to a pond ecosystem. While bigger animals may fly, walk, or swim away to other ponds, micro-organisms are always present in large numbers.

macro-organisms - larger plants and animals that are easy to see on a pond are called "macro-organisms (macro=large). They are the plants and animals that we often notice first, and can more easily spread from pond to pond.

What aquatic systems can be found at River Bend?

  • Marsh - shallow water with non-woody plants growing above water level
  • Swamp - like a marsh but with bushes and trees growing from the water as well
  • Pond - a small and shallow body of water with plants growing above water level only on the edges; generally freezes solid during winter.
  • River - a moving body of water that flows from one place to another.
  • Stream - smaller than a river, may even dry up sometimes
  • Puddles - any body of water that lasts for a few days or more may attract aquatic life
  • Spring - area where underground water is discharged onto the land suface forming a pond or stream

What other types of aquatic systems can be found on Earth?

You may research any of these that don't seem familiar:

  • lake
  • ocean
  • creek
  • lagoon
  • bog
  • sea
  • glacier
  • tidal pool
  • geyser
  • fen
  • flood plain
  • bog
  • estuary
  • aquifer
  • salt lake

What will we do at River Bend?

You and your team will visit one of River Bend's ponds and complete a series of tests and observations to get a "snapshot" assessment of that aquatic ecosystem. You will compare your results to those of other teams and in future years teams will make comparisons to yours.

You and your team will:

  • Record date and the weather conditions at the time of your visit.
  • Draw a sky view map of the pond, including living and dead vegetation, various structures and visible features, and wildlife sighted at that time.
  • Test the various physical properties of the pond:
    • Water depth
    • Water temperature
    • Turbidity/transparency
  • Perform several experiments to tell you more about the chemical properties of the water (detailed indicator sheet ):
    • Dissolved oxygen: Primarily absorbed from the air but also created by plants and used by animals. Also consumed by the decomposition of organic matter.
    • pH: A measure of how acidic or basic the water is. The pH is affected by geology of the area, plant growth, and pollutants. Water that is too acidic or too basic will cause a variety of problems for aquatic species.
  • Collect and identify insects and other creatures in and around the pond. They often are indicators of water quality as some insect prefer "dirty" water and others "clean" water. (Download detailed indicator sheet here.)

Your data will be compiled with data gathered by other teams to generate ranges and averages for future comparisons.

What are some basic principles of a scientific investigation?

Science is often a process of performing scientific tests to investigate and learn things. For example, we can test a sample of water to see how much oxygen is present in a pond. In order for such tests to have any meaning, there are some rules (or "principles") that we must remember:

  • Follow all directions and safety instructions for a test carefully.
  • Do each test the same way each time you do it.
  • When measuring something, be as exact as possible.
  • Doing the same test several times and taking an average can give you a better answer to a question than doing just one test.

What do we need to remember when we visit River Bend?

  1. The quieter we are, the better.
  2. Listen to your leader.
  3. Be careful and safe with all tools and equipment
  4. Raise your hand if you have something to say.
  5. Do not pick anything unless given permission.
  6. Stay where you leader asks you to be.
  7. Be respectful of nature - and of each other!

2012 Data Reports

2012 Prairie Pond Data
(Prairie Pond dry 2008 & 2009 & 2011 & 2012 - current 2012 data is below in Hidden Ponds)

Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010
Averages

2007
Averages

2006
Averages

Time

 AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

P,

 

 

 

 

School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

63

59.7

48.8

Water Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

57.5

57

46.2

Water Depth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20.6

5

12.19

pH Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.5

6.4

6.27

Phosphate Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.8

2.1

0.42

Nitrate Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0.8

1.3

0.98

D. Oxygen Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.2

6.1

6.29

2012 Amphitheater Spring Data
(Prairie Pond dry 2008 & 2009 & 2011 - current 2012 data is for Hidden Ponds)

Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2011
Averages

2009
Averages

2008
Averages
 

Time

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

 

 

 

 

School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

60.5

?

60.9 

Water Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

57.3

45.2

 56.9

Water Depth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.8

2.6

 1.94

pH Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.9

6.9

 7.18

Phosphate Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.9

.5

 .76

Nitrate Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.7

.9

 1.4

D. Oxygen Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.1

6.8

 7.18

 2012 Turtle Pond Data

Date

Sept. 25

Sept. 26

Sept. 27

Sept. 28

 

 

2012 Averages

2011
Averages

2010
Averages

2009
Averages

Time

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

 

 

 

 

School

 L

L

J

J

R

R

 

DM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

60.5

63

47.8

Water Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

59.2

62.0

46.4

Water Depth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25.5

33.5

21.4

pH Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.9

7.3

6.6

Phosphate Test

N/A 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.6

0.3

0.4

Nitrate Test

 N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.9

1.0

0.8

Turbidity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

D. Oxygen Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.5

4.2

2.2

 2012 Hidden Ponds Data

Date

Sept. 25

Sept. 26

Sept. 27

Sept. 28

 

 

2012
Averages

 

 

 

Time

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

AM

PM

 

 

 

 

School

 L

L

J

J

R

R

 

DM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water Temp (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water Depth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pH Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phosphate Test

 N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

Nitrate Test

N/A 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

Turbidity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. Oxygen Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Key: R=Roosevelt Elementary; L=Lincoln Elementary; J=Jefferson Elementary; FLS=Faribault Lutheran School; & DM=Divine Mercy Catholic School.
 


Photos of some past classes
Do you have more photos? Send in your best and we'll post them here!


 


Some suggested pre- or post-visit activities

Send us your ideas! Email them to us.

  • Create model pond ecosystem (such as DSMII Pond Life) including a chart showing similarities and differences of River Bend's wetlands.
  • Monitor the results from other classes posted on this site to include in graphing. (In the future, most value will be gained by comparing results from different years).
  • Research other types of wetlands, in North America and around the globe.
  • Monitor and research current news stories on phosphates, acid rain, and any other articles relating concerns regarding rivers, ponds, marshes, and other aquatic systems.

Interesting Links

The following links contain interesting information on aquatic ecosystems.
You can also send us your favorite aquatic ecosystem links! Email them to us.

Pond chemistry:
http://users.vcnet.com/rrenshaw/H2Oquality.html

Groundwater and drinking water:
http://water.epa.gov/drink/

Ideas for related projects:
http://www.cloudnet.com/~edrbsass/edsci.htm#waterquality

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