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Ohio Scenic Rivers Activity Book
New children’s activity book guides stream exploration

Illustration of a young kid picking up a small crustacean.Splashing in a creek is elemental fun for children, and the division’s Scenic Rivers Program has a new activity booklet that invites children to discover the hidden world of stream organisms known as macroinvertebrates. In addition to puzzles, the booklet features beautiful coloring pages illustrated by the division’s very own Ryan Moss, who is the stream quality monitoring coordinator for Northeast Ohio.

Macroinvertebrates, often referred to simply as “bugs,” lack a backbone and are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. If you know where to look, it’s easy to spot crawdads and hellgrammites in Ohio streams. The activity booklet uses streams and the bugs that live in them as a way to engage young readers to learn biology concepts like life cycles, habitat, adaptations, and ecosystems.

Here are just a few of the fun facts found in the booklet:

  • How do stonefly larvae breath underwater? They do “push-ups” to get more oxygenated water rushing past their gills.
  • How do caddisfly larvae find shelter? They build tiny rock homes, and some carry them around like hermit crabs carry their shells.
  • How do dragonflies find food? Most of their head is comprised of their eyes, an adaptation of a fierce predator that hunts for prey larger than itself.

The engaging activities are even more dynamic when paired with real-life stream exploration. We hope parents will join their children in trying to spot some of these important critters in a stream near them. Remember: Some bugs are more sensitive to pollution than others, so if you find any of those sensitive species, it’s an indication that the quality of your stream is good.

The concept of using macroinvertebrates to describe the health of a stream is the basis for the Scenic River’s Stream Quality Monitoring (SQM) program, a citizen science program that launched in 1983. Coordinators train volunteers to survey and identify macroinvertebrates at 136 sites on scenic rivers throughout the state.

After using a simple identification guide that ranks macroinvertebrates in three tiers of sensitivity to pollution, volunteers record the types they find and generate a score. Scores can be tracked over time to show water quality trends. Last year, 2,900 volunteers, including many school group students, collected 515 samples statewide. Empowering local residents to care for and know about their rivers is an equally important outcome.