Lesson Plan

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

a microscopic tardigrade
Students learn how to find microscopic life like this Tardigrade during their field trip in the Smokies.

Dr. Diane Nelson

Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
in the park
extremophile, meiofauna, tardigrade, biological inventory, all taxa biodiversity inventory, Great Smoky Mountains National Park


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 pieces that we often overlook. Tardigrades and other microorganisms are some of the most numerous and most biodiverse organisms on Earth. This unit explores the biodiversity of these microscopic organisms as students learn to isolate the microscopic world living 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