students and microscopes

Algae: Bloom or Bust? (Grades 6-11)

In this two-part algae laboratory, students will learn about the important part algae plays in the marine ecosystem, while developing their own inquiry lab experiment.

Program Details

Session One (60 minutes)

We will begin with an introduction to photosynthesis and algae. We will discuss how algae grows and why it is an important part of marine ecosystems. Students will view different types of algae on a microscope and learn how to count algae cells to determine density. We will work together to discuss how to evaluate algae that is growing.

In groups, students will work together to develop a hypothesis, prediction, and methods for growing their own algae flask. By the end of this session, students will decide what conditions their algae will be set in for one week. 

At the end of this first session, students will watch as we inoculate their flasks for their experiment.

Teachers will receive a daily update of the algae flask growth so that students can fill in their data sheets. Teachers will receive one picture of each flask (to assess colour) and a microscope image (cell count). 

Session Two (30 minutes)

For the second session, students will be led to interpret and discuss their results. We will create a graph and discuss general trends seen by each group.


Teachers will receive PDF documents that should be printed and handed out to students before the session.

  1. Introduction to Algae reading- 1 page
  2. Experimental Design Worksheet- 1 page
  3. Laboratory Protocols for Algae Growth- 1 page
  4. Data sheet- 1 page
  5. Results activity- 1 page

Learning Outcomes

After completing this laboratory, students should have an understanding of:

  • Photosynthesis in marine environments
  • Types of algae: diatoms and dinoflagellates
  • Experimental design
  • Data collection
  • Data visualization

Teachers are encouraged to further explore this laboratory by having students create a laboratory report or poster of their experiment.

The complexity of this laboratory is designed to be scaled up or down depending on grade level.

**This program can be run at either VIU Nanaimo Campus or Deep Bay Marine Field Station. Program may be modified depending on location.**

  • Grade 4 Science: Sensing and responding: - other animals
  • Grade 7 Science: Survival needs
  • Grade 8 Science: Photosynthesis and cellular respiration
  • Grade 9 Science: Asexual reproduction: mitosis
  • Grade 11 Life Sciences: Cells are the basic unit of life: photosynthesis
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