Lesson Plan

Water Bears, Rotifers and Nemotodes - Oh My! High School (North Carolina)

a microscopic water bear
Students explore the hidden world found in lichens, like this microscopic water bear, during their field trip to the Smokies.

Dr. Diane Nelson

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Grade Level:
Ninth Grade-College Undergraduate Level
in the park
meiofauna, biological inventory, all taxa biodiversity inventory, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, extremophile, tardigrade, lichens


When most students imagine national parks and nature in general they probably think of large animals such as bear and deer. Although bear, deer, and other visible animals are important parts of the ecosystem, there are other important pieces that we often overlook. Tardigrades and other microorganisms are some of the most numerous and most biodiverse organisms on Earth. During this study students will isolate resident tardigrades and other microscopic life found in lichens.


1) understand the biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2) learn several characteristics of tardigrades and other microscopic life
3) learn the vocabulary related to the tardigrade study
4) learn about lichens as a habitat for microscopic life
5) isolate, view and classify microscopic life such as tardigrades, rotifers, nemotodes and protozoans
6) understand the definition and classification of extremophiles
7) be able to list examples of earthly extremophiles
8) create their own extremophile creation
9) understand what the term "Stewardship" means
10) how the students can become a steward in their school and their community

Last updated: April 14, 2015