Plankton Feeding

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This activity provides a hands-on experience with a scale model, a relatively high viscosity fluid, and feeding behaviors. Learners attempt to capture "food" (a lentil) with a feeding appendage in a very viscous fluid (syrup). Learners discuss the differences of life on smaller length scales, the difficulty of suspension feeding, and how feeding appendages have evolved to overcome the viscosity of water.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 pints of corn syrup (or honey which is more expensive and less transparent)
  • 8 oz clear plastic cups
  • Popsicle sticks (or forks, spoons, and knives. Plastic or metal both work.)
  • Dry lentils (or beads or dry peas)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
      • Viruses and Bacteria
    • Ecology
    • Evolution
      • Evidence for Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access




  • All rights reserved, Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, 2012

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0827983
  • National Science Foundation, 0828142
  • National Science Foundation, 0827953
  • NOAA National Sea Grant
  • Office of Naval Research
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration