Walk On Water Bugs

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In this activity (on pages 29-35), learners examine water pollution and filtration. First, learners build models of water bugs from paper clips, and test the effect of dirt and detergent on their "bugs" floating on the water. Next, learners build a water filter using filter paper, a paper towel, and gravel or sand. The "What We Know" section introduces concepts of how much drinking water is found on Earth, water pollution, the impact of pollution on water quality and surface tension—and how that affects specially adapted species such as water striders.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model, Simulation

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • tap water
  • 3 cups (short, widemouthed, clear plastic)
  • 6 small metal paper clips (#1 regular)
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 1 tablespoon soil (not potting soil)
  • toothpicks
  • a drop of liquid detergent
  • 1 funnel
  • several paper towels
  • two #2 coffee filters
  • about 3 tablespoons each of gravel and sand


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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

Designed specifically for

  • Rural dweller

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Explicity developed for this group


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, University of Nebraska State Museum and Nebraska 4-H, 2001

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation Informal Science Education Program, 9909496
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute