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Lake Foam

This lake has a slimy, protein rich, foam accumulating on the bank.

Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • What caused the foam?
  • Where did the plants’ oils come from? (how did they make them)
  • Why does this only happen when there is no algae? OR Why is there no algae in the video/picture?

Classroom Suggestions

  • In this case, the lake was not polluted. These foam bubbles are naturally occurring. 
  • Show the video and/or pictures.
  • From the sources I provided you should find that fatty acids/oils/lipids in the water are what provide the bubbles. These oils were created by the plants that grew during the season before. When the algae and other plants died, they released what they made back into the water (exits the cell membrane). This normally does not happen in the summer because the living things are still using the oils that they are currently making. 
  • Also note, the oils are made when the cell has plenty of sugar.
  • After students figure out it is oil produced by the plant, have them investigate HOW plants produce oils. This will show how the whole cell works together to achieve a function.

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment

MS-LS1-2 :

Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function

Credit Info

Submitted by Nathan Van Zante


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