Water Ways: Stream Ecology and Monitoring

Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin

What better way to learn about stream ecology and water pollution than to collect and identify the fascinating insects, crayfish, and shrimp-like scuds living in streams? ICPRB provides presentations, hands-on activities, and resources to help teachers (middle through high school classes) start stream ecology or monitoring programs. The presentations can be done as a series or as stand-alone lessons.

Bilingual lessons in English and Spanish are available on the Bilingual Materials page.

*PDF Presentations marked with an asterisk (*) have a companion PowerPoint presentation. Please Contact us for the file. 

Overview: Introducing Stream Monitoring

This presentation can be used to introduce stream ecology and stream monitoring to students.

Water Chemistry

Biomonitoring with Benthic Macroinvertebrates


Kindergarten-Middle School Teachers

  • The Cacapon Institute – The Potomac Highland Watershed School provides a game-like approach to learning about benthic macroinvertebrate identification and collection.
  • Audubon Naturalist Society – Green Kids provides complete lesson plans and PowerPoints for grades 4-5, covering stream habitat, monitoring procedures, and equipment.
  • Izaac Walton League of America – The Creek Freaks Program provides comprehensive teacher and student guides for extensive hands-on inquiries of stream ecosystems for grades 5-8.

High School Teachers

  • Explore and Restore Maryland Streams, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Biological Assessment of Stream Health.
  • Forms for doing biological and other surveys:
  • Maryland Streamwaders Macroinvertebrates by Tolerance Levels, KEY
  • Maryland Stream Health Map – view data collected on a stream near your school, using interactive maps and charts of the results
  • Resource Guides:
    • A Guide To Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, J. Reese Voshell, Jr. – Covers life habits and basic anatomy, color illustrations.
    • Guide to Aquatic Insects & Crustaceans, Izaac Walton League of America – includes dichotomous key, descriptions of functional groups (feeding methods of different benthic macroinvertebrates)