Marie Curie Math & Science Center


The subject and grade level that this unit aims for is Grade 5 or 6 Science.

Commencement Content Standards from MST:

  • Standard # 1 Analysis, Inquiry, and Design

Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate, to pose questions, seek answers, and develop solutions.

  • Standard # 2 Information Systems

Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

  • Standard # 4 Science

Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

  • Standard # 7 Interdisciplinary Problem Solving

Students will apply the knowledge and thinking skills of mathematics, science, and technology to address real-life problems and make informed decisions.

Benchmark Standards:
Content Standards:

Analysis, Inquiry, and Design: Scientific Inquiry
The central purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing,

creative process.

Information Systems:

Information technology is used to retrieve, process and communicate information and as a tool to enhance


Science: The Living Environment
Plants and animals depend on each other and their physical environment.

Human decisions and activities have had a profound impact on the physical and living environment.

Interdisciplinary Problem Solving: Strategies
Solving interdisciplinary problems involves a variety of
skills and strategies, including effective work habits; Gathering and processing information; generating and analyzing ideas; realizing ideas; making connections
among the common themes of mathematics, science,
and technology; and presenting results.

Performance Standards:

Analysis, Inquiry, and Design: Scientific Inquiry

  • Students will formulate questions independently with the aid of references appropriate for guiding the search for explanations of everyday observations
  • Students will construct explanations independently for natural phenomena, especially by proposing preliminary visual models of phenomena.

Information Systems:

  • Students will use a range of equipment and software to integrate several forms of information in order to create good quality audio, video, graphic, and text-based presentations.
  • Students will access needed information from electronic data bases and on-line telecommunication services.

  Science: The Living Environment

  • Students will describe the flow of energy and matter through food chains and food webs.
  • Students will provide evidence that green plants make food and explain the significance of this process to other organisms.
  • Students will describe how living things, including humans, depend upon the living and nonliving environment for their survival.
  • Students will describe the effects of environmental changes on humans and other populations.

Interdisciplinary Problem Solving: Strategies

  • Students will participate in an extended culminating math, science and technology project. The project would require students to:
  • work effectively
  • gather and process information
  • generate and analyze ideas
  • observe common themes
  • realize ideas
  • present results

Content Standards or Outcomes:
Students will understand:

  • ecology is the study of interactions of living things within their environments.
  • organisms have certain roles in the environment.
  • interactions of living things result in the flow of matter and energy.
  • certain life substances are recycled in the environment.
  • within an ecosystem there are producers, consumers and decomposers.
  • planktonic plants are the food factory of a pond.
  • a pond ecosystem is complex and ever-changing.
  • people make choices that affect the survival of our own and other species (biodiversity).

Students will be able to:

  • create and maintain a naturalist’s journal.
  • identify plants and animals of a pond ecosystem and create a food web.
  • identify the origin of energy necessary for life.
  • describe how energy flows through an ecosystem.
  • differentiate producers, consumers, and decomposers.
  • describe what happens in the water cycle.
  • identify and explain what is produced during the process of photosynthesis.
  • compare a food chain and a food web.
  • define habitat and give examples of how habitat changes may occur.
  • follow directions and set up an experiment.
  • record and analyze data.
  • work cooperatively and collaboratively in a group. 

Performance Measures:

  • Using the steps of the writing process, and following a business letter format, students will be able to compose and print a letter to a local naturalist or Audubon Society using word processing software.
  • Given instruction, students will be able to define and describe (or give an example) of the terms found in the glossary created for this pond study unit. This will be measured by the student’s ability to correctly use these terms in assignments and discussion throughout the unit and on a unit test.
  • Students will create and maintain a Naturalist’s Journal throughout this unit of study, which should contain the students’ observations, maps, charts, sketches, investigation data, questions, conclusions and personal reflections.
  • Each group of students will demonstrate the ability to work effectively and collaboratively, gather and process information, generate and analyze ideas, observe common themes, realize ideas and present results through their participation and completing of the following project:
  • Students will create, using some form of technology, a product and presentation designed to instruct younger students (or other audiences) about the pond ecosystem.
  • The product and presentation will be evaluated using rubrics that will be designed by the teacher and students prior to the start of this project.

Enabling Activities

  • During this unit it would be helpful if you are able to set up a nature library and reading section in the classroom.  You might also include an exhibit area, if appropriate.
  • Learning will be enhanced if students are able to share their findings with local and global communities.  Students should be able to obtain and share knowledge on computer web sites during this unit of study.

KLH Charts
Have students work together in cooperative groups (of 4 students) and create a chart showing what they know about ecosystems and ponds, what they want to learn and how they might find the answers.  A class chart can be created after groups share their own work.

Guest Speakers
Students will contact a local naturalist and/or the Audubon Society to invite them to speak to the class and participate in this unit of study in person and/or via the internet.

Introduce Naturalist’s Journal
Ask students if anyone has ever used a journal or diary.  Allow several students to talk about their experiences keeping a journal.  Ask students to define the term naturalist.  See if students can tell how a naturalist is like a detective  (watching animals in their habitats raises questions and provides many clues).

Tell students that a  journal is an essential tool used by nature researchers and scientists in the field.  They use it to record data and observations, maps, drawings and other information.  Discuss the power of observation as a learning tool and the importance of recording data for future use.  Introduce students to a sample page from a naturalist’s journal and review each element and the kind of information it records.

Give students a blank journal page and arrange for a 20 minute field trip to the school yard to record what they see.  When you return to class, students should share in small groups what they recorded.  One member of each group should report the group’s observations to the rest of the class.

  • At some point you might want to allow students time to personalize their journals, decorating the cover in any way that they choose.  Suggest a way to organize the information in their journals by dividing it up into different sections.  If you plan on doing a long term study, you may wish to invite students to share their methods of organizing the journals and explain the reasons why they organized them that way.

Field Trip(s) to a Local Pond

  • Be sure to visit the pond ahead of time to make sure there is safe access for students!
  • Students will visit the area once just to observe the surroundings and record observations in their naturalist’s journal.
  • Encourage students to keep track of personal reflections as well in their journals.  Back in class students will once again share what they recorded.
  • On your next visit to the pond, each group of  four students will need the following items:

Light color, heavy duty dish pan, kitchen strainer, hand lens, naturalist’s journal and field guide.  An optional item that you may wish to include for each student would be a pond survey sheet showing a variety of tiny creatures that students may come across during their observation.

  • When you arrive at the pond, have students spend some time observing forms of life and making journal entries.  Then have them carefully muck rake by scooping up a strainerful of pond bottom and placing it in the dishpan.  Make sure you remind students to keep all critters in water and shaded from the sun.  Students should observe and try to identify the pond animals.  Students will then record and illustrate their findings in their journals.

Direct Instruction/Class Discussion
Students will share their observations and findings with each other in class.  Discuss the types of plants and animals that are part of a pond ecosystem.  How many types did they see?  Write the following on the board: big fish, small fish, turtles, ducks, tadpoles, crayfish, snails, plankton and insects. Ask students (groups of 4) to create a food web showing what each uses as a source of food.  After five minutes have each group present their web and explain how they decided what each animal used as a food source.  As a class, create a food chain using the members that were observed in the local pond ecosystem.

Have students perform the following experiments, recording their observations, questions and conclusions in their journals:

How Can We Demonstrate the Water Cycle? Investigation
Materials (for each group): water, large, clear plastic bowl, small jar or mug, plastic wrap, tape, penny or pebble.


  • (Day 1) Fill a plastic bowl full with water.  Place mug or jar in the center.  Cover top of bowl tightly with plastic wrap and tape tightly around the edges.  Place the bowl in a hot, sunny window.  Place a penny or pebble on the plastic wrap directly over the mug to insure that it “rains” into the mug.
  • (Day 2 or 3) Groups should examine the bowls and describe what has happened.  (The water in the plastic bowl has evaporated. Some water droplets can be seen on the piece of plastic. Other water has condensed and fallen into the mug.)  Students may record their observations in their journals.

Do Plants Need Sun? Investigation
Materials: A houseplant, several pieces of aluminum foil and a sunny windowsill.

Cover one leaf of the houseplant completely in aluminum foil.  Cover the stem attached to the leaf as well.  Leave the plant where it will get a lot of sun.  In about a week, remove the aluminum foil and look at the leaf. (The leaf has probably become yellow and withered.  The aluminum foil prevented light from getting to the leaf, so the plant shut down.) Students may describe what has happened and record their observations and conclusions in their journals.

* Remember -No light, no plants; no plants, no food !  How can we apply this to the pond ecosystem?

How Can We See A Plant Making Oxygen?
Materials: A leaf of really fresh lettuce, a large glass bowl of water, a piece of cardboard, and a glass jar (like a mayonnaise jar) with the lid removed, filled almost to the top with water.

Put your lettuce into the water filled jar.  Then put the cardboard on top of the jar and hold it in place like a lid.  Still holding the cardboard, turn the jar upside down an put it into a bowl of water.  Once the jar is in the glass bowl, pull out the cardboard.  The water and the lettuce should stay high up in the jar.  Put the jar and the bowl in a place where it will get plenty of light.  In a few hours, you’ll start seeing bubbles.  Those bubbles are filled with oxygen.

? You could also cut a small piece of pondweed and leave it in a jar full of water on a sunny windowsill.

Students will find out additional information about the members of the pond ecosystem using related software, electronic encyclopedias, the Internet, trade books, science encyclopedias, field guides and record this information in their journals (text and graphics).

Pond Mural
Cooperative learning groups of 4 students each will be responsible for working on a portion of one large mural depicting a pond ecosystem.  Plants and animals, pond surroundings, the water cycle, photosynthesis, food webs/chain should be included in the final product.  Students should use the information they obtained through their research to complete this task.

Introduce Pond Ecosystem to Younger Students
Each cooperative learning group of students (teams of 4) will be responsible for developing a way to teach their 2nd grade learning partners (as well as any other interested groups) about a pond ecosystem, using some form of technology (camera, camcorder, tape recorder, computer and related equipment).  Examples:  Produce a video or slide presentation, a field guide or book, Power Point presentation, etc.  Students will need to decide as a group what to include in their presentations and should share the information they obtained from the research task.  They should also be involved in creating the rubric that will be used to evaluate the final products and presentations.

This is only a small portion of the activities that can be accomplished during this unit. Items such as classification system, cell structures, succession, environmental concerns can all be addressed using a pond ecosystem as your model.

Another thought is to study a local pond periodically throughout the entire year and observe and document the changes that occur throughout the seasons.

Nye, Bill and Ian Saunders.  Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Consider the Following.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1995.

Pollock, Steve.  Eyewitness Science: Ecology.  New York: Dorling Kindersly, 1993.

Schwartz, David M. and  Dwight Kuhn. The Hidden Life of the Pond. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.

Your local Audubon chapter (518 nationwide) can assist you with planning activities and obtaining resources. The National Headquarters is located in New York (212) 979-3000.   They also have a special hotline number 1-800-813-5037  for teachers!

abiotic environment: non-living or physical environment which includes the climate, soil, water, air, nutrients and energy.

carnivore: an animal that feeds primarily on animal flesh.

community: all the different plants and animals that live in a habitat.

consumer: the feeding animals of a habitat including herbivores, carnivores, and decomposers.

decomposer: a plant or animal that feeds on dead materials and causes its mechanical or chemical breakdown.

ecology: the study of plants, animals, and the environment and how they interact with one another.

ecosystem: how plants and animals within a habitat interact with each other and with the nonliving parts of their environment.

food chain: the series of steps showing energy flow through a community.

food web: the combination of all overlapping food chains in a community.

habitat: natural home where a plant or animal finds the food, water and space it needs to survive.

herbivore: an animal that feeds primarily on vegetation.

invertebrate: lacking a backbone or spinal column.

larva: in most insects, the immature, flightless stage that transforms into a resting stage called a pupa or another stage before becoming an adult.

metamorphosis: a series of changes in form during development of an immature form to an adult.

niche: an organism’s role in the environment.

nymph: the larva of an insect that goes through gradual changes to reach the adult stage.

omnivore: an animal which feeds on both plant and animal materials.

organism: anything that has all the features of life.

photosynthesis: the process in which leaves use carbon dioxide from the air, water from the roots, and the sun’s energy (in the form of sunlight) to make sugar (glucose).

plankton: minute animal and plant life that float in a body of water.

population: a group of organisms in a community that are all the same species.

producer: green plants which are able to manufacture food from simple organic substances using energy from the sun.



St. Thomas Aquinas College, 125 Route 340, Sparkill NY 10976-1050