Planet P.I.

A WebQuest for 5th Grade (Science, Math, & Art)
Designed by
Angela Velazquez 
July 25, 2001


Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


Your help is needed! It is the year 2035, and your team has been selected because you are the best eco-detectives on our planet. The top leading scientists from around the world have been trying to save our planet from "greenhouse" gas effect which will destroy the Earth in one week. But, the top leading scientists have been kidnapped by aliens from the planet Xyto. They  want the greenhouse effect to destroy our atmosphere making the planet a giant oven that will cook us into tasty morsels for their consumption. The scientists did manage to leave us a clue of how to save Earth. The clue that they left was written in the sand-"phytoplankton". Your mission is to find out:

1. What are phytoplankton?
2. How can phytoplankton influence global change?
3. Why are phytoplankton important to our survival?

Good Luck, we are counting on you!

The Task:

Your task is to find out what phytoplankton are, how can phytoplankton influence global change, and why are phytoplankton important to our survival? You will be visiting various web sites to help you answer these questions and a few other guided questions at each site that you will visit. Your team will also be examining the various geometrical shapes seen in  phytoplankton. 

After  completing your research, you will present your findings in a PowerPoint slide presentation for the class. Each team member will also create a 3-D model representing a phytoplankton of their choice using geometric shapes and examples seen at the various websites . They will discuss with the class which plane shapes were used, symmetry, and if any transformation geometry was used in creating their model.

The Process:

1. There are four members on your eco-detective team.
2. You have been asked to help save planet Earth by finding out about phytoplankton.
3. You will start your journey by going to the website of the Earth Observatory and looking at What are Phytoplankton?
What are phytoplankton and where are they found? What do they require so that they may grow? What are phytoplankton the foundation of? What gives phytoplankton their greenish color?
4. Next, you will explore why these plants are so important in the planet's food chain A Little Link in a Big Chain. What do these plants show in the oceans?
5. After exploring A Little Link in a Big Chain, you will investigate Carbon, Where Does it All Go? Here you will look at why phytoplankton are a vital part of ocean chemistry. What does phytoplankton remove from the sea water and what does it release as a by-product? What happens to phytoplankton when they die? This can cut down the accumulation of what into the atmosphere?
6. Now, you will explore How Phytoplankton Can Influence Global Change? The larger the world's phytoplankton population, what happens? What do phytoplankton respond very quickly to? How is this important to the human population and the "greenhouse" gas effect?
7. Now that you have investigated what phytoplankton are and what they do, next you will find out what they look like. First, let's find out how many types of phytoplankton there are by clicking onto Phytoplankton. What are the names of the three major groups?
8. Take a look at Diatoms. Here are some more great pictures of Diatoms and Phytoplankton.
9. Next, you will explore this Image Quest 3-D Plankton Gallery. Here, you will be able to see many different shapes of phytoplankton. Also, check out this Chain Diatom, what shape(s) can you identify here? What about in this example of Discoid Diatoms?
10. Look at this colorful Diatom, what shape do you see? How many sides does it have? What shape can you identify? Triceratium Diatom (Tri = 3)
11. Now, that your team has completed the research, it is time to get to the projects. First, your team is going to create a PowerPoint presentation to show to the class concerning your findings. In your PowerPoint presentation you will create a total of 6 slides. The first slide will be the title slide and your names. The second slide will address "What are phytoplankton?" The third slide will address "How can phytoplankton influence global change?" The fourth slide will address "Why are phytoplankton important to our survival?" The fifth slide will give any conclusions that you have and/or what you have learned concerning phytoplankton. The sixth slide will give credit to any images, graphics, or references that you have used.
12. For your final project you need to put on your artistic and mathematical thinking caps. Each team member will construct out of materials given to you by your instructor (tissue paper, pipe cleaners, sticks, egg cartons, glue, etc.) a 3-D model of a phytoplankton type of your choice using geometrical shapes.
13. When you have finished, you will present your PowerPoint slide presentation to the class. Then, you will discuss/explain to the class your 3-D model. You need to be able to discuss what plane shapes were used, the model's symmetry, and any transformation geometry that you used or discovered in your creation.


Each team member can earn a total of 100 points. The points will be broken down in the following ways:

  • Each team member can earn a total of 25 points for group participation in the WebQuest adventure.
  • Each team member can earn a total of 25 points for their participation in the PowerPoint presentation.
  • Each team member can earn a total of 25 points for their geometric 3-D model of a phytoplankton.
  • Each team member can earn a total of 25 points for participation in discussion/explanation the geometric relationship of what plane shapes were used, symmetry, and transformation geometry.



Congratulations! Your mission has been successful and we have been able to save the Earth. Hopefully, you have learned what phytoplankton are and how important of a small link in a big chain that they are. Hopefully, you have also realized that math is a part of the nature around us, even in the microscopic world. 

But, phytoplankton are not the only microscopic organism living in our oceans. They share the vast blue sea with zooplankton, holoplankton, and even some recently discovered creature who live around underwater "black smokers" or sea thermal vents. Here is your chance to check out some other mysterious microscopic creatures the live in the sea by clicking on to Ocean Planet.

Credits & References:

1.What are Phytoplankton?
2. A Little Link in a Big Chain
3. Carbon, Where Does It All Go?
4. How Phytoplankton Can Influence Global Change?
5. Phytoplankton-
6. Diatom-
7. Diatoms and Phytoplankton-
8. Image Quest 3-D-
9. Chain Diatoms-
10. Discoid Diatoms-
11. Colorful Diatoms-
12. Triceratium Diatoms-
13. Graphics of cartoon plankton-
14. Background image-
15. Ocean Planet-

Based on a template from The WebQuest Page