Explore and Restore Maryland Streams

Background and Classroom Preparation

Safety First!

Before you venture outside with your students make sure to visit your stream beforehand! Oftentimes there are unforeseen challenges to accessing the stream such as a lack of a trail, poison ivy, or steep banks. Don’t let this deter you but please check out your stream before taking students. Read more about smart and safe streamside practices.

Introduction to stream life

Learn about the properties of a stream ecosystem and some of the animals who live there. Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists have shared a pdf of the PowerPoint used in our workshops which highlights the most important chemical and physical elements for a healthy aquatic ecosystem as well as a detailed look at the benthic macroinvertebrates who live in streams.

  • Maryland Streams – Take a Closer Look - MD Department of Natural Resources. A reference text for learning more about the physical processes affecting the appearance and behavior of streams in Maryland, how and why streams function as they do, and how DNR biologists and other scientists monitor them.
  • From the Mountains to the Sea - A MD Department of Natural Resources Publication that analyzes multiple years of Maryland Biological Stream Survey Data. Published in 1999, the data is outdated, but the variables in a stream remain the same, as do the questions about the interrelationships between the landscape and health of a stream ecosystem.
  • Macroinvertebrate Ecology - Maryland State Envirothon – text resource that includes background information on benthic macroinvertebrates and the stream community, insect anatomy, explanation of different sampling methods
  • A field guide for identifying macroinvertebrates is A Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, by J. Reese Voshell, Jr., McDonald & Woodward Publishing Co. Blacksburg, VA. 2002 ISBN 0-939923-87-4
  • Flash Cards of Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America by J. Reese Voshell, Jr. are student-friendly flash cards which are useful streamside and can be shared between groups of students. McDonald & Woodward Publishing Co. Blacksburg, VA 2002, ISBN 0-939923-26-2.

Explore your watershed virtually:

MERLIN - Interactive Maps. This is the online mapping repository for spatial data for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Explore Maryland virtually with your students and identify your closest stream, where it leads, and the varied natural resources that surround your school and community.

Maryland Fieldscope – This is where you will upload stream data collected by students, and where you can find additional data to use in the classroom. National Geographic Society’s web-based mapping, analysis, and collaboration tool is designed to support geographic investigations and to engage students as citizen scientists investigating real-world issues – both in the classroom and in outdoor educational settings. Fieldscope also has both a national and regional site with corresponding maps and resources.


  • Equipment Recommendations for chemistry kits, stream sampling equipment, and other useful stream side equipment.
  • Make your own monitoring equipment before you go out in the field. Build underwater viewers for observing Macroinvertebrates and other stream features. Bring in math and STEM skills by building trundle wheels for measuring along the stream bank. Plan ahead by placing Hester-Dendy Samplers and leaf packs in the stream for Macroinvertebrates to colonize.

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