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The kingdoms in a water drop: an introduction to microscopy and the kingdoms of lifeFeatured science projectScience project video


  1. Gather together your collecting materials: bucket or jars with screw tops, and cart or wagon to transport them back to your laboratory. Locate a pond that you can access to collect water samples. The pond should have a shore that you can reach by foot.
  2. Fill your bucket or jars with water from the pond. Please note that when you submerge your bucket in the water, it can be very difficult to lift back out. When you fill the bucket, hold it with both hands. To fill the bucket, first tilt it slowly, then push a small part of the rim into the water so that it fills slowly. You will feel the bucket become heavy as it starts to fill. Pull it out of the water before it gets too heavy.
  3. If you have filled glass jars with water, loosely tighten the screw cap. If the cap is too tight the organisms in the water might run out of oxygen. Since you want to see live organisms under the microscope, keep the caps loosened so oxygen can enter the jar. Alternatively, you could make small hole on the cap of the jar to allow air to enter them.
  4. Bring the water samples back to your laboratory for observation under the compound light microscope. To do this, you are going to prepare a wet mount.
  5. To prepare the wet mount, use an eyedropper to transfer some of your water sample to a microscope slide. Handle the slide by its edges to avoid getting fingerprints on it. You will only need to put 1-2 drops of water on the slide. If you put too much water the slide will overflow.
  6. Next place a cover slip over the water on the slide. To place the cover slip, hold it by its edges and put one edge down on the slide first. Lower the rest of the cover slip onto the slide as if it is a hinged door. It will come into contact with the water and cause it to spread underneath the cover slip. It's perfectly normal if some water spills off the sides; don't worry as you'll have plenty more!! (see drawing)
    microscope slide with water droplet sample
  7. Refer to the diagram showing the parts of a microscope. Place the wet mount on the stage of the microscope and look through the eyepiece to begin making observations. Start at the lowest magnification by using the 4x objective lens. The images you see through the eyepiece are made larger by different lenses or pieces of glass.
  8. Once you think you have the water sample in focus, move to the next highest magnification (10x). Continue to increase your magnification, getting the water into focus each time, until you start to see critters (organisms) swimming about in the water. You will notice that the water on the slide has some depth so you may need to use the fine focus knob on the microscope as the organisms swim up and down.
  9. If you don't find any organisms on the slide, you may need to repeat steps 5-8 until you do see them swimming around.
  10. Once you have sighted some organisms, begin making sketches of what you see on each slide. Some critters may move very quickly and some more slowly. Observe as many as you can and make notes about their sizes, color and behavior.
  11. After you have observed at least 10 different organisms, begin to make guesses about which kingdom the organism may be classified in. Add these guesses to your notes and include the reasons you chose those kingdoms.

kingdoms in a water drop

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    Complexity level:
    Project cost ($):
    Time required:
    This science project may be completed in 1 hour if water samples are provided. Otherwise, you should allocate 1 day to complete the experiment, if water samples need to be collected. Natural water samples vary by how many living organisms can be found in a
    Material availability:
    You will need access to a pond or pond water samples. You will also need access to a compound light microscope to examine the samples.
    Safety concerns:

    Practice good hygiene after collecting and handling water samples from a pond. Some ponds may contain pollutants or fecal material (such as from waterfowl, fish or sewage).