< Back to: Activities

River Habitats

Learning Objectives


  • Be safe around water
  • Use keys to identify different river plants and animals
  • Use different sampling techniques to collect minibeasts
  • Appreciate the distinctiveness of the river habitat
  • Understand how life cycles are linked to the seasons


  • Understand the interdependence of living things
  • Develop appreciation of the environment and personal responsibility for its conservation
  • Create food chains and webs based on the living things discovered
  • Carry a pollution investigation to look at pollution levels

Key words/phrases

Adaptation, food chain, food web, keys, kick sample, identification, habitat, environment, fauna, flora, predator, prey, ecosystem, diversity, species, pollution, nitrates, pH, indicator species


Centre staff will welcome your group and describe the day’s programme, learning objectives, and the health and safety issues. (10 mins)

½ Day Course Programme

  • Digital slide showing the different animals that might be found and discussion of their varying adaptations (KS2 only) (10 mins)
  • Collect equipment and put wellies on (10 mins)
  • Walk to River Meden (10 mins)
  • Demonstration of how to dip the different zones in the river: Surface, open water, river bed, vegetation on banks (10 mins)
  • Pupils put into pairs taking turns to dip the river and return to their trays on the bank to identify their findings (40 mins)
  • KS2 Can carry out the Pollution Detectives activity as part of the study
  • Return minibeasts to the river and tidy up (10 mins)
  • Back to the centre to get changed (10 mins)

Detailed activity sheets can be found in the Pond and River Studies curriculum material. Copies available at the centre.


Back at the Centre the group will reflect on their day and consider how well the learning objectives have been met (5 – 10 mins).

Safety Considerations

Weather Conditions and clothing

Some wellies are available at the Centre but please ensure that children are dressed warmly and have suitable waterproof outerwear. Activities will take place in all but the most severe weather conditions. The centre teacher will contact the group leader if conditions are unsafe for the visit to continue.

Even though the river is shallow the pupils invariably get wet feet, so spare socks and trousers should be brought.

Equipment supplied

Nets, trays, ID keys, observation pots, hand lenses, clipboards, recording sheets, nitrate sticks, pH paper, first aid kit

Equipment needed from school

Sun cream if required, wellies, spare clothes

Other Information

The actual programme may vary depending on the number and needs of pupils, length of visit and weather conditions.


Pollution study can be carried out to find the level of pollutants by looking at the diversity of invertebrates in the water. Water can be tested for the PH level and nitrate levels.

Adults can accompany a specific pupil/group in the water. Sample can be collected before hand to provide examples.