Habitat Connectivity

Background for Teachers

This lesson introduces the importance of having a connected habitat. The main focus is on fish species, however, it will be important to point out to students that:

  • Macroinvertebrates need a connected habitat
  • Culverts might disrupt or alter macroinvertebrate habitat in much the same way as they do for fish

Although the videos have a worksheet (use the one worksheet after watching both videos) the questions may be challenging. You may want to work on them in discussion as a class.


Students understand that:

  • Populations of organisms need a connected habitat to survive
  • Stream provide a connected habitat, or connections between essential parts of a whole habitat
  • Culverts (and other things that may not allow streams and rivers to function properly) can create fragmented, unused-able habitat


Students add a culvert to their stream system diagram and consider how it might affect their stream system.

Where does this lesson happen in the Project?

This lesson is in Unit 1: Background Understanding. It introduces the basics of habitat connectivity and should be used with the Introduction to Stream Ecology lesson to begin the project.

Getting Ready

Starting with fish, ask your students what fish, ask your students how fish use streams. Do they live in streams? Use streams to get from one part of their habitat to another? Do they always have the same needs? Putt all information on the board.

Explain that, for this project, the students will need to understand how streams work as habitats, or habitat connectors for organisms. They will be thinking also about how a connected stream might function differently than a stream that is not connected properly and they will add information to their stream system diagram to use while they are working on this project.


Student Prerequisites

  • Students need to have a basic understanding of what a habitat is and that all organisms need energy to live
  • Students need to have a basic understanding that organisms have life histories

Time Needed

One class period (or less), can be combined with the first activity in this Unit: Introduction to Stream Ecology.

Doing the Activity

Watch the videos. It is very short; you may want to watch them more than once.

After watching the videos students should add a culvert to their diagram of the stream system and answer questions about the videos.  You may want to work on the questions in a class discussion.

Students should share diagrams with each other and then add a culvert to the classroom stream system diagram- to be used as a reference as this project moves forward.



Referring to their stream system diagram, have your students explain what might happen to their stream if a culvert was put in (or an additional culvert put in to a stream that already has a culvert), and did not function properly. Have students write down the questions that they have about the stream system and their diagrams.

Ask a question; design a way to answer the question.

Using the Question Worksheet, ask students, individually, or in groups, to write down as many questions as they have about macroinvertebrates (individual species, interactions, competition, food preferences, habitat preference, etc.). From the list of questions have the students choose one or two. Ask the students to design a method to answer the question.  If there is time- present some of the questions and designs and discuss the merit of the research design.


Have students explain habitat connectivity to their parents, siblings or another class.

Lesson Extensions and Supplements

Ask students to look for culverts on their way home from school.