Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about freshwater habitats. It is designed to complement the Freshwater Habitats topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Most of Earth is covered by water, but very little of it is freshwater. Freshwater is an important natural resource that many living things need to survive. In this movie, children will learn about different bodies of freshwater, including rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and wetlands. It will also explore how different plants and animals have special adaptations to survive in their freshwater habitats.

Review with your children that an ecosystem is a community of living things and their environment. Ecosystems can vary in size—from a puddle to an entire ocean. An ecosystem can host many different habitats, or places where plants and animals live. We recommend watching movies in the Habitats unit together as a review or extension. Plants and animals in a habitat rely on each other to survive. Your children should be familiar with different freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, and the role of each in their environment.

About three-quarters of Earth is covered by water, but less than 1% of it is freshwater available for drinking or other human and animal use. Freshwater is water that has very little salt in it and people, as well as many plants and animals, need freshwater to survive. Remind children that a pond is a small body of fresh or salt water that is surrounded by land. The water is mostly still and some ponds freeze in the winter or dry up during drier weather. A pond can sustain a wide range of life, from microorganisms to mammals. Brainstorm different pond animals together, including animals that live in the water, on top of the water, or near it. Remind children that plants and animals that live in or near a pond have special adaptations, or ways to survive in their environment. For example, the water lily has roots that grow at the bottom of a pond. It has a long stem that grows up in the water, and large flat leaves that float on top of the water to get sunlight. The water lily provides food and shelter for pond animals.

A stream or a river is a long body of moving water. Rivers and streams get their water from rain, but also from melting ice and snow in mountains. The longest river in the world is the Nile River in Africa, which is over 4,000 miles long and flows through nine countries. Have children think of rivers or streams near where they live, and ask them why so many communities are built near freshwater sources. Discuss the plants and animals they have seen in and near these bodies of water, and think of other ways the water provides for the community (energy/transportation/drinking water). Note how plants also help the river; fallen vegetation transfers nutrients to aquatic life, and the shade surrounding streams or rivers mitigates change in water temperature, creating optimal living conditions for many living things to thrive. Point to different rivers on a map and discuss their importance to the area. Remind your children that plants and animals which live in or near rivers also have special adaptations to survive in their environment. Some plants that grow on river beds have strong, thick roots that prevent erosion and keep the plants from washing away. Animals such as otters have physical adaptations that help them swim in the water and move on land. Encourage your children to think of familiar animals and how they survive in their habitats. How do they move? How do they get food? What body parts do they use to get what they need to survive?

A lake is a large body of water that is surrounded by land. Some lakes are salt water, while others have fresh water. Lakes get their water from rain and some are fed by rivers and streams. Have your children think of nearby lakes and look for them on a map. Many people get their water from freshwater lakes. What might happen if our freshwater lakes and rivers got polluted? What might happen to the plants and animals?

Encourage good environmental practices and remind your children that they should treat the environment with respect. Their actions affect not just themselves, but other living things, now and in the future.