Floating Classroom Activities

Hands-on activities are available throughout our cruises, featuring experiential inquiry-based learning (more on this in an NSTA article about us). Typically, we divide larger groups into teams of 3-6 for a series of linked "mini-labs".

Cayuga Water Lab

A typical Cayuga Water Lab Cruise on the Floating Classroom has four stations on the boat at a deep water site, including field/weather conditions, GPS sampling location, Secchi clarity, Water temperature and pH profile, plankton survey.  

Please select some of the examples below for more detail, with photos and video, regarding some of the common activities and measurements we do on board the Floating Classroom.


Plankton Sampling

Students use a plankton net to gather teeming hordes of tiny but diverse living organisms from the lake.


Plankton Microscopy

With scopes, available on-board, students can learn to observe and identify the plankton they've collected.


Water Clarity Analysis

How far does sunlight travel down into the lake? This is an essential measurement when we're monitoring the the environment under the water's surface.

Profiling the Lake at Different Depths

What changes happen when you start moving from the surface of the water down into the depths of the lake? Depth profiles help us understand how the structure of the lake is changing from one day to the next! 

Sample and Investigate Aquatic Plants

There are so many different aquatic plants. Students can dredge up samples from the bottom of the lake and record data on what plant species they find.

Collect and Analyze Sediment Samples

The lake's ecosystem is more than just the water column. Keep going down below the sediment, and there is so much more to discover!

Invasive Species Survey

An Invasive Species Survey Cruise features shallow water stops at multiple locations and aquatic plant sampling and observation.

Invasive plants, fish and other organisms are likely the greatest threat to the Finger Lakes.  Seemingly desirable fish, such as brown trout and rainbow smelt were once purposefully introduced, and ultimately changed the fundamental ecology of Cayuga Lake.  Today, incidental introductions of zebra and quagga mussels, round gobies, and plants such as Hydrilla verticillata and European Water Chestnut threatened to alter lake conditions even more.  Check out these resources.

Shoreline Programs

Stream Study featuring a modified benthic macro-invertebrate indexing procedure, is available at Taughannock State Park and Myers Point locations.

Guided Hikes into gorges and along the shore are available at most locations.

Art Programs are available upon request!

Complementary Classroom Activities 

Our instructors can visit your class to help students interpret their lake cruise observations and experience. We also are happy to support classroom experiments and curricula that will enhance your students' experience on the lake.

ASSET Program modules are available in cooperation with the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine. These units guide your students through hands-on experiments that provide insight into plankton biology through the study of the ciliate, "Tetrahymena".

Climate Change and Cayuga. We will share 6 years of student data on water temperatures and other features, and explore the impact of climate change on our lakes and communities.