Styrofoam Traps

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In this activity, learners use Styrofoam to collect organisms from a pond, estuary or marine environment and then examine what they have caught with a microscope. The tiny spaces in Styrofoam peanuts and blocks of polyurethane foam can be colonized by microorganisms and can be used to fish bacteria and protists out of marine and freshwater environments. Use this activity to learn about species characterization or to compare the organisms that live in different habitats.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Several pieces of string or monofilament fishing line (approx. 8 inches each)
  • Fishing weight
  • Styrofoam peanuts or polyurethane foam
  • String
  • Covered jar or Ziploc bag
  • Petri dishes


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
      • Classification
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity
  • Nature and Environment
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Olendzenski, Lorraine


Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0333402
  • National Science Foundation, 0333363