1. At the river, stream or wetland, divide the students into 3-4 groups.
2. Explain what a habitat is. Ask the students to identify several habitats in the river bank (riparian) zone. Explain how riparian zones are more habitat rich than a more open country or forested areas, and thus their importance as an ecosystem to support a wider variety of plant and animal species.
3. Give each group of students one of the three Task cards (1 is about land use, litter and pipes and drains; 2 is about structures and modifications, smell and water clarity and 3 is about vegetation, invertebrates and vertebrates) and a highlighter and get them to complete the card by providing a rating or score.
Remind them that 0
means maximum impact
such as lots and lots of
litter, putrid smelling
water or bare ground.
4. Gather and tally the student data and rate the site scores with a maximum of 90 points. Ask the students to discuss areas of concern observed at the site. Help students rate the severity of differing issues and their own ability to tackle the problems they have discovered.
5. With the students, map out a plan to address the factors that concerned them most from their survey.
Pristine habitat along the upper Namoi River highlighting a Casuarina-dominated vegetation community. Photograph: Anthony Townsend I&I NSW
Create a map showing where water at the site comes from and get the students to document ways that water might get contaminated upstream.
Possibilities include soil
erosion, pollution from
urban storm water or
farming activities etc.
Create species lists of plants and animals found at the site.
Research how the biodiversity of the site could be improved (such as with appropriate native species plantings, weed removal, carp control, nest boxes, re-snagging to create fish habitats, etc).
Assess the site using the Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition (hyperlink available on Sustaining River Life cd and web versions).