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W 3 Week Plan 4th – 6th Grades ater Quality

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3 Week Plan

3rd – 5th Grades
ater Quality

Protecting our Water”

Activity 7: Cleaning our Waterways (Quest)

Do you know of a stream or river in your community that seems to always have a lot of trash in and around it? This activity gives students a chance to make a difference in their community and to learn about what they can do to clean up their water ways. In this activity, students will organize a small group of people (kids and adults) to help clean up a segment of a river or stream in the community. You can use the resources in the Cleaning Our Waterways Quest to help you get started. In addition to a project write up, students should also prepare a presentation for family and community members on what they did, learned, and recommend.

Project Activities:

  • Choose what segment of a stream to clean.

  • Organize resources and a group of people to help.

  • Take photos of the water area before starting the clean-up, then take photos during and at the completion of the activity.

  • Clean up the stream and take notes on any problems encountered.

  • Write a brief description about each of the photos and what was done.

  • Write a description of activities and the photos, as well as any suggestions on cleaning up.

  • Develop and present to family members or other community members on what was done, learned, and recommend.

Note: if cleaning the waterway is too major of a project, you might want simply to elaborate on your Portrait of Stream Quest by also developing an action plan and presenting to a group of community members on what you learned.


Water Education Resource Centers:

National Resource Defence Council:

* Note: Students can also upload their work and reflections as part of the Who Lives Under the Surface Quest!

Science / Civics

3 Week Plan

3rd – 5th Grades
ater Quality

Protecting our Water”

Teacher Tips
This Unit takes an understanding of water quality issues. We have included some resources in the body of this text and others can be found in the resources section of the associated Quests. However, you might also need to do some of your own research on macroinvertebrates and water quality issues before you begin this unit. To download electronic resources associated with these activities, you will have to go into either the Quest Atlantis space.
Activity 5, in particular, is rather involved and requires some significant preparation. If possible, seek out the assistance of local expert(s). It may be useful to find the scientists to interview at the very beginning of the Unit so that you might benefit from their expertise at the very outset of the Unit. Activity 5 contains its own assessment exercise in addition to the assessment provided at the end of the Unit. The hyperlinks contained in these activities may be reached by way of the OTAK.
Also note the attached assessment activities which can be used in a pre-post fashion. The idea would be to administer all the questions and one of the two scenarios before doing the unit and the other one following the unit.

Appendix: Macroinvertebrate Sheet
Major Groups of Aquatic Insects
Photographs and Descriptions
This information was complied From the Stream Biomonitoring Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Available at:

Order - Coleoptera (Water Beetles)

Adult beetles look similar to terrestrial beetles and are one-twentieth to one and a half inches long. They are hard bodied, and the forewings are modified into hardened covers. Beetle larvae take many forms and may be mistaken for caddis or dobsonfly larvae. They range in size from one tenth to two and one half inches long. The head is distinct with chewing mouthparts. Thoracic legs are usually present and the abdomen is made up of eight to ten segments.

Order - Megaloptera (Dobsonflies and Alderflies)

Larvae are soft-bodied, long, and slightly flattened, and range in length from one half to three and a half inches. The head has well-developed mandibles. Long lateral filaments are paired on abdominal segments 1-7 or 1-8. The abdomen ends in either a single filament or in a pair of very short legs with two claws per leg. Some water beetle larvae are very similar to Megaloptera larvae, but never have a single terminal filament or a pair of short posterior legs with two hooks. Megaloptera larvae are carnivorous and feed on other insects.

Order - Odonata (Damselflies, Dragonflies)

The abdomen is very long, parallel sided, round and slender compared to that of the more robust dragonfly larva. Nymphs measure three quarters to a little over an inch not including tails. The nymphs of damselflies are also distinguished from dragonfly larvae by possessing leaf-like gills at the tip of the abdomen. The wings of adult damselflies are held back along the body when at rest, while those of dragonflies are held horizontally. Some adults are beautifully iridescent. Like dragonflies, the nymphs are predaceous, feeding on small insects, worms, and crustaceans. Identification of the nymphs, even to genera can be difficult.


Unlike damselfly larvae that have parallel-sided abdominal segments, the abdomens of dragonflies widens from the base and narrow posteriorly. The abdomen ends in three short pointed "tails". The nymphs of most species are found in quieter waters, burrowing in soft sediments or clinging to vegetation. They are predators, using their hinged, spoon-like mouthpart, the labium, to scoop up or seize nearby prey. Size ranges from one half inch to almost two inches. Many dragonfly nymphs are sensitive to pollution. The life cycle of most dragonflies is one year, although in some species the nymphs require up to four years to reach adulthood.

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