Featured Lesson

Lesson 1:1 - Design a Habitat


Sample Habitat Diorama

What are the parts of your local pond or aquatic habitat? How are those parts linked and important to each other? Lesson 1:1 - Design a Habitat is a great kick-off lesson to bring about awareness, allowing time for observation and investigation, and developing a foundation for future lessons and learning.

Lesson 1:1 - Design a Habitat provides a visual means for students to learn to identify the key components of habitat. Whether you use the visualization or physically visit the water, your students will make connections and start to discover their surroundings. They will start to understand relationships between living and non-living parts of the natural environment and how human constructed systems also play a role in the habitat.

In this lesson, students demonstrate what they learn through observation and listening by constructing a diorama of a habitat that provides food, shelter, water and space for a bluegill.

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Lesson Summary

The instructor leads students on an actual or a virtual field trip to a pond to explore and see how habitat can meet basic needs of a bluegill. Students then construct a diorama of the fish’s habitat, illustrating food, water, cover, and space.

Tips & Tricks

For younger kids, the visualization activity (virtual field trip to the pond) may be too difficult. See the Book Reviews for suggestions on picture books to read to the students as the introduction for this lesson. Additional books can be found in the Student Reading List, which can be found in the Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Leader’s Guide Appendix Four: Planning Aids.

The water in this craft is represented by blue plastic wrap. Some stores still carry the colored wrap – Super One and Super Value had it on their shelves recently. If no blue plastic wrap is available, have the kids paint their diorama background blue or use construction paper to make the dioramas.

Part 1-Virtual Field Trip to a Pond


  • For the visualization exercise, be sure students are spaced well away from each other to minimize distractions from neighbors. 
  • For younger students, explain what a visualization is and why it can be a helpful learning tool. 
  • When students are sharing their images, consider having them talk with a partner before sharing in a large group. Then partners can find out if there are any similarities and/or differences in what they imagined. 
  • Use the Student Reading List to choose books to read aloud to emerging readers or have students choose and read other narratives about aquatic habitats after the visualization exercise. 

Part 2-Field Trip to a Pond

High Quality Shoreline Image


  • Before asking students to work independently, model what it looks like to make an observation and write it down. Do this multiple times.
  • You may want to consider making a prompt sheet that will remind students about the kinds of observations they should make while on location. 

Part 3-Making Habitat Dioramas


  • Depending upon the age of your students and the tools and time you have available with students, consider pre-cutting the peeholes in the shoeboxes. 
  • While students are making the dioramas, have them return to their notes from the field trip to a pond. All of the plants, rocks, dead leaves, and other things observed are part of the habitat. Students can add all these things to their dioramas.
  • Once completed, have students write a paragraph about their fish, describing how its needs ar emet by its habitats, and how habitat needs can limit the number and sizes of fish that can live in an area. Review the students' paragraphs to ensure they understand the four essential habitat needs, and that food, water, cover, and space are limiting resources. 
  • Consider having a diorama show-and-tell where students can share their creations with each other. This is a good opportunity to list out similarities and differences in the habitats created by classmates. 

Diving Deeper

There are many ways to extend the learning on this activity. Consider adding some of the following activities to this lesson:

  • Have students write their own virtual field trip narrative for a pond, lake, river, or streams, and read it to the class. 
  • Arrange a visit to a nearby pond or wetland area. While there, ask students to look for signs of animal life, and to think about what those organisms need to srvive in their habitat. Compare studets' observations from the actual visit to a pond or water body with the mental pictures they observed during the narration at the beginning of Lesson 1:1 - Design a Habitat

MinnAqua Lesson Connections

To continue your exploration of habitat and help your students understand why habitat is so important for fish health, try combining Lesson 1:1 - Design a Habitat with two or three of the following lessons to make a habitat unit. 

Lesson 1:1 - Food Chain Tag (30 pages | 3.3 MB)

Lesson 1:4 - Water Habitat Site Study (43 pages | 8.3 MB)

Lesson 2:6 - Adapted for Habitat (35 pages | 3.5 MB)

Lesson 3:2 - Function of Aquatic Plants (24 pages | 3.5 MB)

Lesson 4:5 - Fisheries Management and You (35 pages | 3.5 MB)


Suggested Online Student Resources

Have your students access these online resources to engage in these concepts further.

  • Healthy Rivers: A Water Course is a captivating program to understand the ecology and management of river and stream systems. Featuring 220+ screens of information exploring the complexity and diversity of river systems. Color photos and maps, illustrations, and graphic animations. Over 100 audio interviews, video clips, and music segments. More than 100 links within the program, 100+ links to external web sites, and a complete bibliography of over 100 references.
  • Restore Your Shore. This powerful multimedia program for shoreland owners and professionals is available online to use in implementing shoreland restoration and protection projects. It is a continuation of the DNR's lakescaping series, including, the very popular book Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality. Numerous lakeshore restoration demonstration sites and a series of 14 shoreland property owner workshops followed the publication of the book.
  • What every water gardener and shoreline restorer should know about harmful exotic aquatic plants Download the pdf.
  • MN DNR Shoreland habitat and fisheries management
  • MN DNR Stream Habitat Program
  • The Value and Use of Vegetation in Stream Restoration