Water Bugs


Water Bugs

Some bugs can walk on the surface of a lake, stream, river, pond or ocean. In this activity, learners will investigate surface tension of and how it prevents these bugs from sinking under the water’s surface. Learners will test how different substances affect surface tension using paper clips “bugs”. Step-by-step instructions are included with photos along with safety recommendations. Activity guide includes a “What’s going on?” explanation and relevant connections to water striders and the effects of pollution on aquatic life.

Materials List:

  • 4-6 small metal paper clips, 2.5-3.5 cm long (Do not use large or jumbo paper clips, or paper clips with ridges)

  • 3 bowls or wide-mouthed containers

  • Water

  • 1 handful of dirt, sand, or coffee grounds

  • Spoon

  • Liquid dishwashing detergent or liquid hand soap


Topics: Rivers, Lakes, Oceans & Water, Nature & Environment, Ecology, Animals

Grade Level: Grades 3 and up

Activity Type: Model

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Activity Time: 10 minutes