Sixth Grade

Have you ever wondered what might live in a drop of pond water? Sixth graders explored this question by using microscopes to look at "pond" water they created, which was filled with dead leaves, twigs, soil and numerous microorganisms, such as paramecia. Paramecia (the plural form of paramecium) are part of the protist kingdom, a group of single-celled organisms that we have learned about in our unit of study on cells. Sixth graders spotted these tiny creatures swimming around their aquatic environment in search of food and often witnessed paramecia consuming bacteria and algae.
After going on our "micro safari" through a drop of murky water on a slide, students compared and contrasted the paramecium protist cells we saw in this lab to the elodea plant cells we looked at in a prior lab. Sixth graders pointed out that while both types of cells share a lot in common, there are some pretty significant differences between plant and protist cells. They discussed these similarities and differences in small groups and as a whole class, focusing on the organelles, or small organs, inside each type of cell as well as some important processes that happen inside the cells.  
Next, we will observe stained animal cells, specifically our own cheek cells, to see how they compare to plant and protist cells. Our understanding of the structure and functions of cells and cell organelles will no doubt continue to grow.