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Mountain Stream Ecology - On-site Activities/Interpreter Led

Grade Level: 5
Content Area:
Life Science
Time to Complete: 2 hours
Title of Program:
Stream Survey

South Carolina State Standards Addressed:


Identify questions suitable for generating a hypothesis.


Use appropriate tools and instruments safely and accurately when conducting a controlled scientific investigation .


Evaluate results of an investigation to formulate a valid conclusion based on evidence and communicate the findings of the evaluation in oral or written form .


Use appropriate safety procedures when conducting investigations.


Summarize the composition of an ecosystem, considering both biotic factors and abiotic factors.


Compare the characteristics of different ecosystems.


Identify the roles of organisms as they interact and depend on one another through food chains and food webs in an ecosystem, considering producers and consumers, decomposers, predators and prey, and parasites and hosts.


Explain how limiting factors affect populations in ecosystems.

Lesson Description:

Students will study the habitats and associated organisms of a coldwater mountain stream to understand the interdependence between various organisms and their environment.  An assessment of the water quality will be determined by the diversity of organisms collected, as well as population size tendencies.

Focus Questions For Students:

1. What is a mountain stream?
2. What types of plants and animals would you expect to find in the stream?
3. What are the main requirements for a coldwater habitat?
4. Where would you expect to find animals in the stream? Why?
5. What role do the organisms found in the stream have in a food chain?
6. Why are coldwater streams important in nature and what positive impacts do people have on them?

Culminating Assessment

1. Complete Stream Survey Sheet of abiotic and biotic factors to assess water quality.
2. As a post-site activity, draw a food chain based on the study done in Carrick Creek at Table Rock State Park.

Material/Equipment/Resources (provided on site):

rubber boots

pH strips

video microscope

Stream Survey Sheet

collecting nets




collecting pans

petri Dishes


Invertebrate Handout

Teacher Preparation:

1. Complete all pre-site activities.
2. Introduce vocabulary words to students.
3. The teacher(s) who will be assisting with the abiotic stream survey during the park visit, should review the sample worksheets.


1. Divide into groups with other adults leading the abiotic stream activity.
2. Provide students with boots, collecting nets, pH strips and thermometers.
3. Explain safety rules and boundaries to students.
4. Demonstrate how to safely and gently collect organisms.  Explain to students that organisms will be returned to stream after observations are made.
5. Students will collect organisms from the stream and place them in collecting pans.
6. With a teacher leader, students will also take pH and temperature readings and make visual observations of stream characteristics.  Results will be recorded on a worksheet.
7. All groups will return to the discovery classroom to identify organisms, discuss interdependence between organisms and the environment and the effect of water temperature and pH.
8. Complete Stream Survey worksheet to determine water quality and population tendencies.

Differentiation of Instruction

Students pre-K thru first grade and students with physical disabilities that will prevent them from entering the river will complete activities on the river bank and in the laboratory.


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