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Aquatic Life: First Grade Spring Unit
Revised July 17, 2011

Unit Goals
Every student loves to explore a pond, or at least is fascinated to some degree by the creatures that live there. The goal of this unit is to encourage excitement and respect for aquatic habitats and the life which occurs in them. This will be accomplished by visiting several different aquatic sites and through the collection, identification, and discussion of various aquatic organisms.

This unit is specifically designed to address appropriate AAAS Project 2061 benchmarks as well as first grade Minnesota Academic proposed Science Standards1. and


Before your visit, please review with your students:

  • What makes an "aquatic habitat."
  • Aquatic habitats found at River Bend and around the world.
  • Some of the animals and plants that live in aquatic habitats.
  • Behavior expectations during the visit.

At River Bend:

  • During the introduction we will review the above material.
  • We will divide each class in half (maximum of 4 groups; assuming normal size classes, classes of less than 15 will likely not be divided).
  • Each group will visit several of River Bend's aquatic habitats to observe wildlife, scoop for critters, discover other signs of animals, and learn why they live in those habitats.
  • To encourage discovery and interest, students will be given significant freedom to free-explore, as conditions and behaviors permit, under the guidance of a naturalist.

In closing we will:

  • Inquire about discoveries at the ponds.
  • Instill in the students the importance of aquatic habitats in nature.
  • Discuss the importance of freshwater habitats to people.
  • Talk of upcoming events at River Bend.
  • Invite the students to return on their own with family and friends.

Back in the classroom:

  • Create some form of art, such as a diorama or wall mural, depicting an aquatic habitat. Have the student enhance the habitat and create critters to "live" there.
  • Have the students think of ways that they can save water and take other steps to protect aquatic habitats.

Aquatic Life

Aquatic Life

What is a habitat?

Review the material from the Fall unit.

What does "aquatic" mean?

Aquatic means "water," so aquatic life means things that live in water habitats.

What types of aquatic habitats are at River Bend Nature Center?

Marsh - shallow water with non-woody plants growing above water level.
Pond - a small and shallow body of water with plants growing above water level only on the edges; generally freezes solid during winter.
River - a moving body of water that flows from one place to another.
Stream - smaller than a river, may even dry up sometimes.
Puddles - any body of water that lasts for a few days or more and may attract aquatic life.

What will we see at River Bend?

You never know what you'll find when you go exploring at River Bend!

Here are the three aquatic habitats you'll explore at River Bend:

Prairie Pond

Prairie Pond

Turtle Pond

Aquatic Life: Turtle Pond

Straight River

Aquatic Life: Straight River

Here are three more aquatic habitats that you can come back and explore sometime!

Upper Pond

Spring & Stream Waterfall & Stream
Aquatic Life: Upper Pond Aquatic Life: Spring & Stream Aquatic Life: Waterfall & Stream

Can you think of any other aquatic habitats on the planet?

lake, ocean, creek, lagoon, bog, sea, tidal pool

geyser, fen, flood plain, bog, estuaries, aquifer

Maybe even a birdbath or water dish if left standing long enough!

What lives in River Bend's aquatic habitats?

Make a list of aquatic life that you might find at River Bend Nature Center, which could include any of the following organisms. Perhaps group them by habitat type, above or below water, etc.

algae, toad, duck, giant water bug, frog, muskrat, scuds, back swimmers

cattails, crayfish, beaver, diving beetles, duckweed, minnow, mink, water striders

sedge, turtle, fish, red mite, salamander, fisher spider, dragonfly larvae, snail, clams

whirligig beetles, water bugs, leech, mosquito larvae

Why are aquatic habitats important?

Discuss the importance of freshwater aquatic habitats to people, asking the students about all the different ways they use water. Remind them that the water they use doesn't come just from a faucet, but originally comes from nature.

What do we need to remember when we visit River Bend?

  1. The more quietly you go, the more you will see and hear.
  2. Wear a name tag to help us get to know you.
  3. Listen to your leader or whomever's turn it is to talk.
  4. Raise your hand if you have something to say.
  5. Leave things growing unless your leader says you can pick something.
  6. Nature needs all that is here - what lives here, grows here, dies here, stays here.
  7. Stay with your group.
  8. Be nice to nature - and to each other!

Some suggested pre- or post-visit activities

Send us your ideas! Email them to us.

  • Introduce the key concepts by showing pictures like those above to your students on your classroom monitor. Ask questions about the pictures.
  • There are many good aquatic wildlife books that showcase how animals live in these habitats. Your school librarian may be able to help you find some.
  • Allow the students to create a wetlands mural: first make the habitat, then add animals where they might live.

Interesting Links

The following links contain interesting information on aquatic life.
You can also send us your favorite aquatic life links! Email them to us.

EPA site with various water activities for kids:

A kids' page about turtles and more:

For kids and teachers about frogs:

Perform a search, there is much more information to be found:

« Our mission is to help people discover, enjoy, understand, and preserve the incredible natural world that surrounds us. »
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PO Box 186, 1000 Rustad Rd, Faribault, MN 55021-0186 USA
 507.332.7151  |
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