Examine smaller compost animals

A 5th to 8th Grade Science Project Lesson Plan


This is an individual or small group activity to observe and identify members of the compost pile ecosystem that are too small to be identified with the unaided eye. It is designed to follow the Observe and identify compost animals activity, although it may also be used as a standalone activity.



If the school does not have a compost heap, directions for building one are readily available. The project may also be done with home composters.

Required materials are: a magnifying glass, a reused jar or plastic container with lid, a flexible straw, scissors, a rubber band, a nylon stocking, a magnifying glass, a microscope and slides, a spoon, and gloves.


  1. Introduce the idea that some of the most important members of the compost heap community are too small to see, even with a magnifying glass. These include fungi (primitive plants that lack chlorophyll and therefore cannot make their own food) and single-celled bacteria. In this activity students look for animals that can be spotted with the naked eye but are too small to examine or identify without a microscope.
  2. Students design and make their own aspirator collectors using the Making an Aspirator Collector Worksheet.
  3. Distribute copies or the URL's of the Magnifying the Compost World Worksheet and the Smaller Compost Animals You May See Worksheet and review the procedures with the students.
  4. Students collect tiny animals from compost and examine them using a magnifying glass and a microscope. Using Smaller Compost Animals You May See and other resources that they discover on their own, they identify the animals they find.
  5. Have students prepare a report on their findings and present it to the class. Encourage them to include drawings, photographs, graphs and printed class handouts.
  6. Have the class discuss the reports. From the reports, can you tell if all the groups found the same animals? Which reports made it easy to see what the animals looked like and what they were called? Do you agree with the identifications of the organisms?


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