The life of waterbugs (Years 3-4)

Waterboatmen waterbug

This lesson plan explores the key features of waterbugs. Students observe waterbugs and consider how their structure and function is intrinsic to their survival in waterways.

Waterbugs (aquatic macroinvertebrates) tell us a lot about water quality. The presence and absence of certain species can indicate the health of a waterway through their known sensitivities and tolerances to pollution and disturbance. The stages of their metamorphic life cycle are examined with links made to the importance of healthy waterways.

Download the lesson plan

This lesson plan contains modules explicitly linked to the Victorian Curriculum.


Activity 1: Hunting Waterbugs

Students use their observation skills to identify waterbugs in a creek water sample. This activity is most effective when conducted as part of a field excursion, but can be run as an in-class activity if a waterbug sample is collected early on the same day.

Activity 2: How do waterbugs move?

Students work in groups to demonstrate the different ways that waterbugs move. 

Activity 3: Waterbug life cycles

Students explore the life cycles of waterbugs. 

Activity 4: Where are the waterbugs?

Students explore a scenario about a river, then play a game to discover why the waterbugs are disappearing.

Victorian curriculum links

  • VCSSU056: Science knowledge helps people to understand the effects of their actions
    Science > Science understanding > Science as a human endeavour
  • VCSSU057: Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features and can be distinguished from non-living things
    Science > Science understanding > Biological sciences
  • VCSSU058: Different living things have different life cycles and depend on each other and the environment to survive
    Science > Science understanding > Biological sciences
  • VCGGK082: Types of natural vegetation and the significance of vegetation to the environment, the importance of environments to animals and people, and different views on how they can be protected; the use and management of natural resources and waste, and different views on how to do this sustainably
    Geography > Geographical knowledge > Diversity and significance of places and environments
  • VCGGK083: Similarities and differences in individuals’ and groups’ feelings and perceptions about places, and how they influence views about the protection of these places
    Geography > Geographical knowledge > Diversity and significance of places and environments


Check out the following resources to enhance learning:

Be a citizen scientist

Waterbug census

River Detectives

River health and monitoring



Last updated: