How to Make a Waterscope

There's a fascinating world just below the surface of streams and ponds, but it's difficult to get a good look at it from above. With a Waterscope, you can get a clear view of shallow underwater environments, even if the water is flowing. A Waterscope is easy to build, and you probably won't have to go any further than your kitchen for the tools and materials. Keep reading for detailed instructions.


  1. Image titled Make a Waterscope Step 1
    Get a tall plastic container. A large juice bottle or milk jug works perfectly, and if the container has a handle (as most gallon and half-gallon milk jugs do), all the better.
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    Clean the container inside and out. Put a little warm, soapy water in the container, put the cap on, and shake it for a few seconds. Then rinse the container out.
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    Cut the bottom of the container off and take the lid off. Use scissors or a sharp knife to remove the bottom of the container about an inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom. You may also want to cut the top off just below the bottle's neck - you'll have a bigger hole to look through if you do. If the container has a handle, make sure to leave the handle on the container intact, so that you can use it to hold your Waterscope.
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    Stretch a piece of clear plastic food wrap over the hole at the bottom of the container. Make sure the piece of plastic is big enough to completely cover the bottom of the container, as you want it to seal the bottom and to stretch almost all the way up the sides of the container. Pull the plastic tight, and make sure there are no wrinkles or folds in the viewing area (the base of the container).
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    Tie or tape the plastic wrap to the container. Use duct tape to attach the plastic wrap to the sides of the container. Place the tape to be fairly high on the container, because you'll be dipping the bottom into the water. You may also find that a rubber band or two, stretched over the plastic wrap around the whole container, will hold the wrap in place.
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    Stick the scope into the water and check out the magnificent underwater world. Wade into a lake or creek, and dip the bottom of the container into the water while holding the container straight upright. Look through the hole at the top. As long as no water enters the container, you should be able to clearly see underwater.


  • The Waterscope will work in any water, provided it's not too muddy, but you'll only be able to see the bottom in shallow or very clear water.
  • Be sure the plastic wrap is attached tightly to the bottle to prevent water from seeping in. If you're using tape to hold the plastic wrap, keep it out of the water.
  • Waterscopes not only allow you to see through surface disturbances, they also magnify things under the water. The deeper you dip your Waterscope, the more magnification you'll get.
  • Make sure the container you choose is tall enough to nearly reach the water's bottom.
  • You can make Waterscopes with larger containers, such as buckets, as well. These containers may be a little difficult to carry around and use, however. Also, containers with clear sides let more light in to your viewing area.
  • Be sure to use clear plastic wrap.


  • Make sure there are no sharp edges on the container after you cut it, especially around the eye hole.
  • Be very careful when cutting the container. Have an adult cut it for you if you don't know how to do it.
  • Never wade into fast moving or deep streams or rivers. Never enter a lake or stream without an adult present.
  • Wear shoes and clothes that can get wet when entering the water.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 clear plastic container
  • Duct tape and / or rubber bands
  • Clear plastic food wrap
  • Sharp knife or scissors
  • Adult supervision

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Science for Kids