Stream Team unit, Kettle Lake Elementary

FOCAL group, April-May 2000


Mrs. Patricia Pennell, Thornapple River Watershed Group

Mr. Ted Curtis, Coldwater River Watershed Council

Session length: 1 and ˝ hrs, 1:30-3:00

Count on 1 hour of actual activity

and 30 minutes of travel and organizing

(10-20 minutes used in travel time, 10-15 minutes used to access each site).

This unit (grades 4 and 5) is designed to give learners a hands-on introduction to the ecology of streams. We will learn about where the water in our streams comes from and what the characteristics of clean, healthy water are. We will learn about ecological habitat in streams and how the land around the stream (the watershed) has a direct effect on the habitat in the stream and the quality of the water. We will study benthic macroinvertebrates and collect and identify them in several stream locations as part of a study of Emmons Creek (the stream that comes out of Emmons Lake in Caledonia Village). We will study fish habitat in streams. We will study the characteristics of wetlands and their effects on adjacent streams.

This is a field trip class. Students will need to dress for the weather. If it is cold and raining, we will still go out because field biologists work outside in all weathers (garden work gloves are nice on days like that). This is an experiential learning class. Students will get wet and will need to wear clothing suitable for wading and getting muddy, such as jeans, sweats, washable jackets, rubber boots or waders. Sneakers that can be machine washed are an alternative (warm socks are important).

  1. April 13 Thursday

    We will go to Emmons Lake (Lakeside Park) and learn about where water in lakes and streams comes from. We will also visit a landowner (North-East corner of Cherry Valley and 76th St. intersection) to observe a spring that is the headwaters of a branch of Emmons Creek.

    Vocabulary: Groundwater, surface water, spring, land use, well, purity, pollution.

    Why does water in streams move? Where is it going?

    Where does water in streams come from?

    How do people affect water in streams?

    Where does water from a well come from? How clean is it?

    What is a spring? Define groundwater and surface water.

    Homework: describe what clean water means to you. Then describe what clean water means to a fish. (we will talk about these questions on the drive next week)


  3. April 20, Thursday.


We will walk trails along Emmons Creek on Consumers Power right-of-way at Thornapple River Dr. SE (North of 84th St, South of 76th St.) where the Consumers Power line crosses the Thornapple River. We will see the mouth of Emmons Creek where it enters the Thornapple. We will learn to examine wildlife habitat along and in the stream. We will determine what good fish habitat is. We will learn the characteristics of good habitat for wildlife. We will see a demonstration of biological sampling in a stream.

Vocabulary: ecology, habitat, riparian

Homework: Choose one animal that lives in or near a stream and describe the four characteristics of its habitat. (Space, Shelter, Water, Food). How does that animal need the habitat to be arranged? (once again..discussed in car next week)


  1. April 27, Thursday


Many things live in and around a stream. The more diverse the habitat, plant types, and animal life is in and along a stream, the healthier the stream. Shade is important to a stream, and the composition of the bottom of the stream is important habitat as well. We will examine what kinds of animals (benthic macroinvertebrates) live in a healthy stream and learn how to measure the health of a stream by "water canaries", the sensitive organisms that live in the bottom of a stream. We will do macroinvertebrate sampling in Emmons Creek, make scientific records of our finding, fill out data sheets and collect verification samples. We will make some preliminary conclusions about the health of Emmons creek using our collected data. Location: Emmons Creek trails at Consumers Power right-of-way.

Vocabulary: water canary (indicator species), diversity

  1. May 4, Thursday


Wetlands that are along streams clean the water, making streams healthy. We will travel to Majer Audubon Sanctuary on 108th St in Barry County (near Baker Rd.) and walk the board walk, and learn about the many good things wetlands do for water resources and wildlife. On the return trip, we will stop at Coldwater Park and try a little biological sampling to see the different water canaries that can be collected there.

Vocabulary: wetland, sanctuary, filter

EQUIPMENT NEEDED over the four weeks of activities:

Magnifying glasses

white plastic trays



laminated macroinvertebrate keys

rubber gloves


clip boards


data sheets

jars, pencils, rubbing alcohol for collection

good rag paper for jar labels

containers for equipment

towels for wet people

garbage bags for wet people to sit on (and to pinch-hit as field raincoats as needed, not to mention put trash into)

stream team badges

waterless hand cleaner



Video Camera


  1. May 11 Thursday
  2. Brainstorming Session!

    At this session, Mr. Curtis will preside (Mrs. Pennell has to go do stream teams in Barry County). Students will discuss what they learned during the field trips, and will plan their presentation and poster for the May 25 session. We will take notes on everyone’s ideas and start working on the poster.

    Equipment: pencils, paper, poster-making materials, newsprint sheets for preliminary designs and ideas.

  3. May 18, Thursday
  4. Creative Session!

    Put together the final project presentation and complete the artwork on the poster. Art materials; markers, paper, tape, glue sticks, posters, and whatever we decided we needed last week.

  5. May 25


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