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Macroinvertebrates: What Wetland Bugs Can Teach Us



This experiential learning resource introduces students to the world of macroinvertebrates and the factors that negatively impact wetlands. A game approach is used to explore the effects of pollution on aquatic macroinvertebrate species.  Then students visit a local wetland to search for, and identify the creatures that inhabit the marsh.  During their investigation students consider the positive and negative impacts of human activity and learn how factors such as invasive species can affect the health of ecosystems.  They also use scientific equipment and gain a deeper understanding of scientific vocabulary related to freshwater systems.  Activities in two lessons include:

  • Describing the four components of habitat.
  • Identifying types of habitats they are familiar with.
  • Playing an adapted version of the Project Wet game "Macroinvertebrate Mayhem".
  • Collecting and identifying aquatic macroinvertebrates found in a local wetland.
  • Using field equipment such as dip nets and field guides.
  • Writing about their experience.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Aquatic invertebrate identification.
  • Scientific sampling techniques such as dip netting and using field guides.
  • Respectful behaviour when working in an outdoor setting.
  • Problem solving- such as how to reduce pollution in an aquatic system.


  • Engaging activities that are hands-on.
  • Takes students outside to explore.
  • Relevant topic that focuses on pollution.
  • Meaningful experiences for students.
  • Organized and easy to use.


  • Some of the resources such as nets and field identification guides may be more difficult for some teachers than others to locate.
  • There is no wetland action project associated with the resource.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would be particularly valuable as an accompaniment to any unit on habitats or interactions within ecosystems.  After discussing the results of the "Macroinvertebrate Mayhem" game students could be presented with several different scenarios where the number of pollution tolerant and intolerant organisms varies.  They could identify which scenarios demonstrate a healthy habitat compared to an unhealthy habitat.  Students could then create their own wetland on paper and cut and paste pictures of various aquatic organisms onto their wetland to show their knowledge that a healthy ecosystem contains a large diversity of organisms. 

From the invertebrates they collect in the wetland sampling activity students can categorize and sort the organisms by pollution tolerance.  They can chart their data and compare results with each other.  Then they can analyze their results and draw conclusions about the health of the wetland they sampled.  Students could also brainstorm ways to keep the wetland healthy if the results indicate it is doing well, or if there is a problem then they can propose solutions. These activities could be expanded into an action project where students "adopt" a local wetland and develop strategies to inform the community about how to protect this valuable ecosystem.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life.
        • Living Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interaction
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Wetland Ecosystems
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitat and Communities
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: Habitats
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats and Communities
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats and Communities

Themes Addressed

Ecosystems (3)

  • Appreciating the Natural World
  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat Loss

Water (1)

  • Water Quality

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The "Marcroinvertebrate Mayhem" game has students considering the positive and negative impacts of humans on ecosystem health. The game also develops a deeper understanding of the dependence of humans on healthy wetlands. The activity is reinforced by the exploration of a local wetland where students can visualize their new learning.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

As students consider how development can impact on ecosystem health they will also learn about the social and economic decisions that are a necessary component of protecting the environment.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

A variety of experiences fosters deeper thinking about wetland ecosystems and students consider new information through presentation, observation and experiential learning.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

Students will develop a deeper awareness of the value of wetlands but there are no specific wetland conservation action projects included with this resource.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Although there are no formal values clarification activities in this resource, students should experience an attachment to wetland habitats that they may not have had previously. This will translate into a more fully-developed concern for wetland conservation and protection.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Not considered in this resource.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Wetlands are among the most threatened types of ecosystems on our planet and it is imperative that young people develop respect for these habitats. This resource fosters an understanding of the importance of wetland conservation through an experiential approach that provides a meaningful experience to students.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Wetlands are found everywhere and this resource is extremely relevant in all geographic regions & communities in Canada.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered

Not considered in this resource.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The hands-on, experiential learning that occurs in a wetland provides numerous opportunities for students to make meaningful connections between new information and what they already know.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This resource is science based. However the game incorporates math outcomes when students tally the invertebrates at the end.  ELA aspects are included in the assessment activity which requires students to write a reflection about their experience.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Both activities in this resource are entirely hands-on and allow for exploration and discovery.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Although not formally identified, the hands-on approach in this resource will appeal to multiple learning styles and abilities.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

Both of the lessons in this resource are learner centred and activity based.  Students also participate in an authentic scientific investigation when they do the wetland dip netting activity.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

There is an opportunity for some small group or pairs learning in the dip netting activity .  Students can also support each other in the invertebrate identification tasks.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

There is an assessment activity included with the resource which requires students to write a one page journal entry about their new learning. This assessment would be best used formatively to determine the level of students understanding. There are no other assessments included with the resource.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

The activities encourage student consultation with each other as they learn about methods used to sort and classify aquatic invertebrates.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The "Macroinvertebrate Mayhem" game presents students with authentic scenarios of how the health of a wetland can be impacted by pollution. Students carry this new learning into their own scientific investigation of an actual wetland and use their knowledge to make a decision about the relative health of that wetland.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

Students learn authentic skills such as aquatic invertebrate identification that can be used to further explore the issue of pollution and its impacts on the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.