Can Nutrients in Water Cause Harm?

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In this water pollution activity, learners create pond water cultures and investigate the effects of adding chemicals or natural nutrients. Learners investigate, on a small scale, the changes that occur when fertilizers are added to pond water cultures over the course of a few days. This lesson guide includes background information, variations and bilingual (English/Spanish) handouts.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 3 clear, 2-liter soft drink bottles
  • Hay (or dried grass), 2 oz.
  • Small container of fish food
  • Small container of liquid fertilizer
  • Spring water, gal (or tap water without chlorine, see SETUP)
  • Copies of "My Marsh Observations" page


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Moreno, Nancy P. ; Tharp, Barbara Z. ; Dresden, Judith H.


  • All rights reserved, Baylor College of Medicine, 2010

Funding Sources:

  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, R25 ES06932
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, R25 ES010698