Fun with Protists

Grade levels: 6-8 (including Special Education & TAG Students)

Submitted by: Donna D. Armstrong, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Prince George's County Public Schools.

Endorsed by: The following projects are of my personal ideas. However, the completion of the webpage was with the help of other Prince George's County Public School Science teachers, who attended the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Program at Western Maryland College.

Abstract: The following lessons were created in the steps used by Maryland Science Teachers named Constructivist Learning Cycle (5 E's). This lesson plan can be converted into the form of your school districts Domain of Science.

Purpose: (For each objective below)To give students a chance to practice with the microscope, by preparing their own wet mount slides, using high power and low power objective lenses. The students will also appreciate the amazing microscopic world.

Date: July 1999

Activity #1

Activity #2

Activity #3

Activity #4



1. Identify the traits scientists use to classify organisms.

2 Observe the various microorganisms found in pond water and compare this to other locations where protists can be found.

3. Identify the form and functions of Protozoans

4. Classify organisms as being one-celled or many celled.

5. Differentiate the movements & activity of various Protists.

 Suggested Vocabulary for each objective (Depending on the level of your class, you can add to this list or take words off):



Objective #1 Identify the traits scientists use to classify organisms. 

ENGAGEMENT: Before starting any Lecture or Lab, students will need to be engaged in a warm-up activity that will last for 5 minutes or less. This capture's the student's attention and helps them access prior knowledge. For this topic, I would start off with a mini-lesson that will introduce some or all vocabulary words listed above. You can do this by:

This will give the students a better understanding that all living things are not big or visible with the naked eye.


EXPLORATION: This section will allow students the time to "think", & "organize" collected information given. The first step I would take to ensure this is to go over vocabulary words for the activity below, a mini-lecture on the background of classification & the 5 kingdoms. Emphases on the Kingdom Protist. Allow students at least 1 minute each to discuss their favorite singer or band. Discuss the various types of music and tie this in with how Scientists classify organisms.**Objective #2.

EXPLANATION: Students now have the opportunity to work in a cooperative group and involve themselves in an activity that will analyze their understanding of classification.


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1. Index cards 3x5

5. Various music tapes or CD's (Country, Rap, Classical, Pop, & Reggae)

2. Playing cards

6. Dark marker ,Pen and or Pencil

3. Plain sheet of paper

7. Note tabs

4. One tape recorder or CD player


On each individual 3x5 index card, the teacher will write in a dark marker, Ace's,King's,Queen's,Jack's and the numbers 10-2.

Each group will have 4 minutes (depending on the level of your class) to classify each card under it's correct index card.

Assessment**Allow students to reflect on the strategies their groups used, and or what they could have done better to finish this task at the allotted time given.


DIRECTIONS:(Music) optional

Give each individual student a sheet of paper with columns that reads, Country, Rap, Classical, Pop & Reggae written with a dark marker. (see extra sheet for example).

Have CD's/tapes visible with a numbered note tab on each.

Have your Record/CD player on and place, at random the music on for one minute or less.

The students are to listen carefully to the song that's playing and once it's cut off, they are to write under the correct column the name of the singer.

Assessment** Allow students to share one or two of their answers. Allow students to explain their strategies on how they categorized the music. The students will give several answers such as, the speed of the song, the instruments heard in the music, the dialect (accents) of the singer, and they will also share how they heard that certain song on their favorite radio station, or that their grandparents usually listens to a certain type of music etc.


ELABORATION: This section allows students the opportunity to expand their understanding of the lesson and apply this to real world situations. Here is where the teacher will discuss the importance of classifying organisms. *The Linnean system of binomial nomenclature is a system of classification of living things, based on body structure and interactions with the environment. This applies to all organisms regardless of size or scale. They will identify traits that are useful for classification and will use a key to identify species of birds. When going into a record store to buy your favorite tape or CD, you would like for the store to have them organized them according to musical style, and by artist. This organization is a form of classification. Scientists use classification of living things to help organize their knowledge so that they can communicate about specific organisms. A robin, for an example in the U.S. and England means a bird with a red breast, but in China it means something different than a pretty red bird. *Scientists have a way to classify and name the huge numbers of organisms found on Earth to help keep order.

*The Science Interactions Book.,Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, New York,New York


The next activity can be used for objectives 2-5.


2. Observe the various microorganisms found in pond water and compare this to other locations where protists can be found.

3. Identify the form and functions of Protozoans.

4. Classify organisms as being one-celled or many celled.

5. Differentiate the movements & activity of various Protists.


ENGAGEMENT & EXPLANATION: Allow students to share with their peers what they "think" may see in this pond water. If time provides, allow them to write in their journals 5 things that may live in this pond water, aquarian water, soil and rotted log. Use a key to match the organisms of protozoa's to its name (see vocabulary words). To start this next task, teachers can capture the students attention by showing how to prepare a wet mount slide. This next step is optional, according to the grade level your students are on. Demonstrate the incorrect way of preparing the slide (placing a large amount of water on the slide, touching the specimen with hands, and leaving the cover slip). Demonstrate the correct way of preparing a wet mount slide.

EXPLORATION: Students are now involved. "Hands-on" Students are to identify various protists found under each microscope (pond water, aquarian water, soil, & rotted logs). They are to observe the shapes,colors, movement, and whether or not these protists have one or more cells. Allow students to rotate groups to observe organisms under each niche.


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1. Collect pond water samples from your nearby pond (**If no pond water is available, the teacher can use an aquarium or start a pond culture that will take 8-10 days.**)

5. Straw or Pipett (*1 per group*)

2. fresh moist soil from the ground

6. microscope (*1 per group*)

3. a small piece of rotted log

7. slides and slide covers (*3 or more per group*)

4. One 50 ml beaker

8. White paper, pen, pencil, crayon's or colored markers (*the recorder of the group*)


Precut a small amount of the rotted log and soil yourself if you feel that it's not safe for your students to handle.

Place students into lab groups. (*no more than 4 students per group*).

Prepare 1 wet mount slide with the pond/aquarian water. (Lab group #1)

Prepare 1 wet mount slide with a few grains of moist soil (Lab group #2)

Prepare 1 wet mount slide with a small amount of bark scraped off the rotted log (Lab group #3)


Assessment: Monitor students as they are at their lab stations.

ELABORATION: Students are now able to grasp the reality that all living things are not big and strong like they are, and life does exist in small places. Allow students to discuss what protists they found from the pictures the teacher showed them the day before. Discuss the classification of these organisms (reminding them of the shapes, colors and form) of each protists found. Discuss which type of protist had one cell "uni" and many cells. Discuss which protist had hair and which did not.

Assessment: Students are now ready to put their knowledge to the test. This next activity will allow students to draw 2 of the many organisms found. Classify these organisms by form, function and movement.