Weeks 22-24 Fish and the Open Ocean

Oh, boy, here we go! This is the biggie—FISH!— and we’ve got three weeks to do them right!

This is a long chapter, packed with information, so it will pay to divide the work up into chunks.

Lets take a look at what’s included here:

The Seaside Naturalist chapter(14) starts on page 161 with a quick overview of fish in general. Then there are two pages on the external and internal anatomy of a generic bony fish.

Then there is a large chunk of the chapter devoted to a page each on 10 different groups of fishes.

Then it moves on to a similar treatment of the sharks and rays with an intro page, 2 general  anatomy pages, and pages on 8 types of sharks/rays. There is also an interesting page on shark senses stuck in there.

I like to do a bit of bookwork and a bit of activity work each day. So here is how I would schedule things.

Recommended timeline–


My advice would be for both the bony fish and the shark/ray sections to spend:

  • a day on external anatomy
  • a day on internal anatomy
  • and then the rest of the week exploring groups/families.

That will take 2 weeks.

The third week can be for doing in-depth study on a species or group of special interest (hammerhead sharks, or flying fish, or seahorses, or whatever nifty critter catches your imagination) or doing a fish behavioral project of some type.

Activities: (Choose several. You have three whole weeks!)

  • I heartily recommend getting your hands on some fish. A study of external anatomy is greatly enhanced by having a live fish to look at to see how all the fins work, (this might be a good time to head to the pet store to do some observing) but a dead fish from the market will certainly do in a pinch. ( be sure to make a page in your notebook for this)
  • If you want to do a dissection to study internal anatomy you’ll need an intact fish (those at the market will be gutted already and no help to you). You can order a preserved bony fish or shark (dogfish) specimen from a supplier such as Carolina Biological or Home Science tools, or just go fishing and dissect your catch (by far the best option, IMHO). (This also warrants a notebook page)
  • You could visit this really neat site recommended by one of our own fieldworkers: Virtual Shark Lab. Good stuff!
  • A trip to a pet store or aquarium would be a great activity with the intention of looking at the amazing variation of form and function in fish anatomy. Take your lab book and sketch as many different body types/fin shapes as you can, and then hypothesize as to what function that body type/fin shape is adapted for. How does a particular anatomical arrangement make  that fish better adapted to it’s surroundings?
  • This chapter was made for cooking! You can revisit sushi, or simply choose a new species of fish to try at home or in a restaurant. Better yet, try several different types of fish and compare their flavor/texture . What do you think causes these variations? Record your efforts in your notebook and be sure to share your favorite recipes here!!!
  • Make a Japanese fish print! This is definitely on our To-Do list!
  • Here is a whole bunch of fish crafts to keep the littles happily occupied.
  • Enchanted Learning has tons and tons of fish-themed crafts and printouts.Many of them are for members only, but some are free.
  • Be sure to leave a spot on one of the days to watch the Blue Planet episode “The Open Ocean” (available to watch instantly on Netflix). It is well worth the time!
  • If you want to do a behavioral project you can  catch some minnows or purchase some cheap feeder goldfish and do some experiments with light, temperatures, food types, etc.  A fun one to do is to study the effects of temperature on breathing rate (by watching the gill covers and counting rate of expansion/contraction at different water temperatures). Makes a really nice graph for your notebook. Just be aware that once you purchase a fish you are responsible for it’s care even after your experiment has ended. Whatever you do, DO NOT dispose of purchased animals into local bodies of water. Not good for the ecosystem to introduce species where they do not belong. If you catch minnows, you can just return them from whence they came when the experiment is through.

Above all, have fun studying this amazing group of animals!



  1. These look great Theresa, thanks so much!

  2. Wonderful! We’re working on this now. We’re hoping to do the fish printing if we can find a proper fish.

    Thanks again for sharing these.

  3. Great!!! Thank you!!!

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