Life in the White River Lessons

With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and many of our schools being closed for extended periods of time, we decided to create some online “Stay at Home Lessons” for teachers and parents to use as educational resources teaching about the biology of the White River. Click on the title to pull up the accompanying graphic for each lesson and activity. Enjoy!

If you would like hard copies of our educational stream fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates, or mussel brochures please email

Stream Fish:

Longear sunfish

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues this week with the Longear Sunfish. One of the brightest and attractive species we find in the White River, the Longear sunfish is a pollution-intolerant species that gets its name for the elongated opercular flap covering its gills. This “longear” also is reflected in its scientific name, Megalotisis, which is Greek for “great ear.”

At-home activity for the kids: Create a Longear Sunfish of your own with origami! Get creative with this fantastic origami fish activity by adding eyes and different colors. Origami instructions:


#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues to thrive with the Logperch. The largest of Muncie’s darter species, the Logperch uses its elongated snout to flip rocks looking for small macroinvertebrates to eat.

At-home activity for the kids: Using rocks and paint, create a Logperch of your own!

Rainbow Darter

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver is colorful with Rainbow Darter. These darters are known for their bright and vibrantly colored males. Believe it or not, the females will actively seek the brightest colored male Rainbow Darters to reproduce with. The red, orange, and blue colored fins are on full display during the breeding season

At-home activity for the kids: Bring the White River to life in this color-by-number activity! Children use a key to match each number with a corresponding color — revealing a Rainbow Darter! This activity is perfect for both math and animal enthusiasts.

Spotfin Shiner

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues this week with the Spotfin Shiner. This species gets its name from the dark pigmented “spot” at the back of its dorsal fin. Can you locate the fish’s dorsal fin?

At-home activity for the kids: Learn to count with this fun I-Spy Spotfin Shiner activity! How many Spotfin Shiners can you find?

Striped Shiner

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver wouldn’t be the same without the Striped Shiner. Looking at the sides of this deep-bodied minnow species, we see dark-colored scales that form stripes. During the breeding season, we see these stripes flanked with a bright pink coloration.

At-home activity for the kids: Using a plastic yogurt container (or similar item), clear plastic wrap/clear plastic bag, rubber bands, and an X-Acto knife to create an aqua scope to view #LifeInTheWhiteRiver.
— Cut out the bottom of the container with an X-Acto knife.
— Stretch plastic over the cut-out bottom and hold it in place with two rubber bands. Make sure that it is secured tightly. Cutaway any excess plastic.
— Take your aqua scope down to the White River and observe life underwater in a whole new way. Submerge the plastic-covered bottom into the water and place your eyes into the container.

Northern Hogsucker

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues to thrive with the Northern Hogsucker. This species has adapted morphologically to live in the fast-moving water associated with riffles and runs of the White River. Their long pectoral fins help navigate the river bottom while their wide and flattened head create downward pressure to hold them in place.

At-home activity for the kids: Using natural materials and recyclables, create a variety of rafts in different shapes and sizes. How does the shape and size affect the raft’s buoyancy and speed?

Greenside Darter

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues this week with the Greenside Darter. This is the most commonly sampled darter we see throughout White River in Muncie. It is often found in riffles with large rocks and filamentous algae. Breeding males will have very distinct green fins and 4-7 vertical green bars. Outside of the breeding season, female Greenside darters can be identified by the dark “V” or “W” marking along their sides.

At-home activity for the kids: How many green items can you find in your home? Bonus points if you can find another green fish in your home!

River Chub

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver: Last week, we introduced you to some of the fish species that live in the West Fork of the White River. This week, we’re taking a closer look at one of those species: the River Chub.

These fish are known as “mound builders.” They use their large mouths to build nesting mounds out of gravel and pebbles. These mounds can measure 2-3 feet across with a height of 8-12 inches tall!

At-home activity for the kids: Using rocks, sticks, and other outdoor materials, can you build a mound that’s 2–3 feet wide and 8–12 inches tall? Use a ruler or measuring tape to measure! How many inches wide is it?

Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

Mayfly nymph

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues this week with the Mayfly Nymph. These are slender, soft-bodied, and have a series of leaflike or feathery external gills attached along the sides or on the top rear portion of the abdomen.

At-home activity for the kids: Spell M-A-Y-F-L-Y with an ABC scavenger hunt! Find items in your home that start with each letter in Mayfly.

 Caddisfly Larvae

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues to thrive with the Caddisfly Larvae. One of the most interesting characteristics of the caddisfly is the ornate and highly intricate protective cases they build as larvae. Different species of caddisfly tend to use different materials for their protective cases making for a diverse array of cases.

At-home activity for the kids: Using an empty toilet paper roll along with natural materials and recyclables create a Caddisfly Larvae case of your own!

 Dragonfly Larva

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver wouldn’t be the same without Dragonfly Larva. These larvae have mouthparts that extend out like an arm to catch prey. Dragonfly larvae have a cavity in their abdomen called a brachial chamber that helps them breathe and can also function as a jet propulsion mechanism to help them escape from predators.

At-home activity for the kids: What do you think the Dragonfly larva will look like as an adult? Create your adult dragonfly at home!

 Black Fly Larva

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues this week with the Black Fly Larvae. They have a disk at the end of their abdomen to anchor the larvae to a surface. Their antennas are used like nets to catch food suspended in water. The number of generations completed in one year varies among black fly larvae, with some having only one generation, but most species complete several generations per year!

At-home activity for the kids: Create a family tree! How many generations is in your family tree?

Blood Midge Larvae

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver wouldn’t be the same without the Blood Midge Larvae. These are a particular type of midge larvae that are very tolerant of water pollution. This is because they have hemoglobin which allows them to survive in water with low dissolved oxygen and gives them their red color.

At-home activity for the kids: How many red items can you find in your home?

 Mosquito larvae

#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues to thrive with the Mosquito Larvae. They can breathe air through a tube that is connected to the water’s surface.

At-home activity for the kids: Using a balloon, a straw, a rubber band, and water see how the Mosquito Larvae breathe underwater! With a blown-up balloon place half of the straw inside securing the straw in place with the rubber band. Next, hold the balloon underwater while the straw stays above the water. Slowly squeeze the air out to see exactly how Mosquito Larvae breathe.



#LifeInTheWhiteRiver continues this week with Mussels. Freshwater mussels in our area use fish as part of their life cycle. Baby mussels, called glochidia,  attach to fish fins and gills to absorb nutrients. Most can’t just attach to just any fish, they have to attach to SPECIFIC fish, or they will not survive. To get her babies on a fish, the mother mussel’s body changes and creates a “lure” to attract the fish. The lure may look like a favorite food item or a mate. When the fish gets close, the glochidia are released in a cloud, quickly attaching to the fish’s gills or fins. The glochidia will ride along on the fish for a small time, then drop off and spend the rest of their lives on the stream bottom.

Freshwater mussels are amazing animals, but they have the weirdest names! In this area, these include the Fatmucket, Giant Floater, Creeper, Slippershell, Spike, White Heelsplitter, and Wavyrayed Lampmussel.

At-home activity for the kids: Using each letter of the alphabet, how many creative names can you come up with for mussels?