Plankton Ecology

Grades 2-12


Fall applications are now closed


Plankton; Phytoplankton vs. Zooplankton; Taxonomy; Adaptations; Food Web; Energy Cycles; Design and Engineering




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Pier 84 Maritime Entertainment District


90 minutes

Tiny aquatic creatures known as plankton are essential to a healthy river and planet. In Plankton Ecology, students use microscopes to examine live plankton specimens and explore the important role of zooplankton and phytoplankton in the Hudson River food web.


  • Students will define plankton and learn the basic difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton
  • Students will explore the different mechanisms that phytoplankton and zooplankton use to get energy
  • Students will create a Hudson River food web to explore the role that plankton play as the foundation of the food web
  • Students will collect plankton samples from the Hudson River using a plankton tow net
  • Students will use elementary microscopes to see the organisms close up and identify their energy source


  • Students will define plankton
  • Students will compare, contrast and categorize phytoplankton and zooplankton
  • Students will explore the different physical traits that phytoplankton and zooplankton have adapted to stay within the photic zone
  • Students will design and engineer plankton organisms out of basic craft materials
  • Students will use microscopes to see plankton up close and identify as phyto- or zooplankton

what teachers say about the program

  • “The experiences that Hudson River Park provides to my students is a once in a lifetime experience that they will never forget. Many of my students do not leave their neighborhood. It is for this reason, that I feel that these field trips are so valuable.” -5th Grade Teacher, Queens
  • “I was very pleased with the quality of the programming at HRPT and very appreciative of the financial assistance offered to our organization.  It is extremely difficult to find low-cost or free programming in NYC and I was very happy that our students were able to benefit from this program. The staff was very friendly and attentive with our students and the programs were the appropriate length of time for our student's attention span.” -4th Grade Teacher, Bronx
  • "The program staff at Hudson River Park Trust is absolutely amazing and did an excellent job of teaching content as well as making the experience fun and engaging for everyone involved in the day's activities. We love the plankton building activity!" -8th Grade Teacher, Manhattan