Planet Plankton

Estuary background image with color overlay


In this activity, students observe plankton and then construct plankton models that can be tested for their slowness in sinking. Then they build their own plankton nets and use them to collect actual plankton. By using a hand lens or microscope, students will observe plankton, then sketch and describe form and function.

This activity has three parts:

  1. What Are Plankton?
  2. Catching Plankton
  3. Magnify Your Plankton

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Students should understand that:

  • Describe how a chemical reaction affects water quality parameters of a sample of estuary water.
  • Plankton are very small, diverse organisms.
  • Plankton are important to Earth's atmosphere and climate.
  • Plankton are critical to maintaining life in estuaries.


Diatom (credit: Elkhorn Slough)
Polychaete Larva
Polychaete Larva (credit: Elkhorn Slough)
Copepod (credit: Russ Hopcroft, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration)

Planet Plankton: Supporting Resources

Net Tow


Plankton Bloom