Author and scientist Roberta Gibson explores fish activities you can do with your homeschooled children and students, even if you do not have an aquarium. Learn fish anatomy, build your own fish using paper plates or paper mache, make fish prints, even dissect a fish. Your student will learn chemistry as he/she investigates water quality. Create "fish cards" and learn the different types of fish. Read some great books about fish!

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The Unschooling Handbook
How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom
by Mary Griffith
Unschooling, a homeschooling method based on the belief that kids learn best when allowed to pursue their natural curiosities and interests, is practiced by 10 to 15 percent of the estimated 1.5 million homeschoolers in the United States.


Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves
by Alison McKee
Patrick Farenga, editor, "Growing Without Schooling": An honest and touching account of how homeschooling leads to new attitudes and possibilities for learning.
Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.
~ John Updike

    Fish Activities Without Water
    Roberta Gibson

    I. Fish Anatomy

    Do an arts and craft project by making a fish out of a variety of materials. Make an easy fish out of two paper plates. Cut one plate in half and fasten (glue, tape, or staple) one half to the whole plate as a fish tail. The remaining piece can be cut into fins. You can add heart-shaped fish lips, eyes, gills, etc. Supply glitter and bits of aluminum foil for “scales.” Paint a large piece of butcher paper with an underwater scene and hang your fish in front of it.

    I have done paper maché fish using a balloon as the body and gluing on the tail and fins with a hot glue gun. I used felt for the fins. Look at pictures of fish for inspiration.

    If your children seem eager for more, you can teach them the parts of the fish (each fin has a special name and purpose) and how their gills work to remove oxygen from the water. You can also discuss the names of different kinds of fish and what their shape and colors are used for. You can investigate how fish have special organs for swimming and buoyancy, such as the swim bladder. A Fish Hatches by Joanna Cole and Jerome Wexler is a good starting place.

    The next obvious step is a fishing trip or trip to the seafood section of the grocery store for a whole fish to dissect. Be sure to have a book handy if you are not familiar with all the parts (prefer-ably choose a book that can withstand smelling somewhat fishy). If possible, take a look into the stomach to see what your fish has been eating.

    Follow up with an art activity by making fish prints. The Japanese invented this art form called Gyotaku. Basically you take a real (dead) fish, wash it carefully, cover it with paint and make a print with it.

    II. Chemistry

    You can investigate many aspects of water quality while learning chemistry. Testing for pH is relatively simple and only requires litmus paper or another pH indicator and these are usually easy to find and are inexpensive.

    Other aspects of water quality include dissolved oxygen. Fish and other aquatic life may be under water but they still need oxygen. You can test for how much oxygen is dissolved in different types of water.

    To test for the salinity or dissolved salts in your water you will need a hydrometer or salimeter. See if your local pet store or college fish biology department has one they will let you borrow (it never hurts to ask). You can also buy them at aquarium supply houses. You can make up solutions with different amounts of table salts to learn how to use the machine.

    Check your pet shop or hobby shop for detailed books about keeping fish and how to maintain water quality and for test kits. Scientific and educational supply catalogs also often carry aquarium equipment and lesson plans.

    III. Fish species identification games

    Have your children create cards with different types of fish on them and then make up games. Try fish flash identification, fish concentration (make two copies of each fish card for making pairs), or make a board for fish bingo. How about a fish food chain version of war with pictures of plant feeders and predators? Look for realistic fish stickers to use for games.

    IV. Take a trip

    Take a field trip to one of the many commercial and public aquariums nationwide. We have visited aquariums in Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Denver, Monterey Bay, and San Diego. I bet there is one near you.

    V. Read some great books about fish

    Non-fiction

    • Jill Bailey, How Fish Swim, Benchmark Books, New York. 1997; ISBN: 0761404511


    • Jane Buxton, Strange Animals of the Sea, National Geographic Society, New York, 1987. (A visually interesting pop-up book.)


    • Joanna Cole & Jerome Wexler, A Fish Hatches, William Morrow and Co., New York. 1978; ISBN: 0688321534. (It is a good quality book.)


    • Claude Delafosse & Gallimard Jeunesse, Under the Sea, Cartwheel Books, New York, 1999; ISBN: 0590109928. (For younger children. Has dark plastic pages and a white paper “flashlight” children can use to discover undersea creatures.)


    • Ruth Heller, How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures, Price Stern Sloan, New York, 1992; ISBN: 0448404788. (For younger children.)


    • Casey Horton, Fish, Gloucester Press, New York. 1983. (Has color drawings, and contains some discussion of fish evolution.)


    • Ann McGovern & Eugenie Clark, The Desert Beneath the Sea, Scholastic Trade, New York. 1991; ISBN: 0590426389.


    • Jerry Pallota, How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures, Charlesbridge, Watertown MA, 1996; ISBN: 0881069000. (Introduces children to many freshwater organisms, not just fish.)


    • Steve Parker, Eyewitness: Fish, DK Publishing, 1990; ISBN: 0789458101. (Awesome color photos. Does discuss some aspects of fish evolution.)

    Fiction

    • Katy Hall & Lisa Eisenberg, Fishy Riddles, Puffin Books, New York. 1993; ISBN: 014036546X. (Some interesting puns.)


    • Leo Lionni, Swimmy, Knopf, New York, 1992; 0394826205. (Deceptively simple, but rich illustrations.)


    • Marcus Pfister, The Rainbow Fish, North South Books, 1996; ISBN: 1558585362. (Any of the Rainbow Fish books.)


    Copyright April 2002
    Originally published in May/June 2002 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine)

    Want to Build an Aquarium?
    Adding Fish To Your World



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The Rainbow Fish
Board Book
by Marcus Pfister
If you read this very popular book just before bed, and the light is still on in the hallway, you can make the rainbow scales glitter on the page, and realize why the Rainbow Fish was so proud of his beautiful decoration.



How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures
All Aboard Book
by Ruth Heller
Describes, using rhyming text, how various sea animals change color to blend in with their surroundings.



Jerry Pallotta's Alphabet Books
by Jerry Pallotta
Jerry Pallotta has done it again! The acclaimed alphabet-book author has joined forces with David Biedrzycki to create an exquisite and informative introduction to freshwater dwellers.



Swimmy
by Leo Lionni
An exquisite picture book. A little fish, the lone survivor of a school of fish swallowed by a tuna, devises a plan to camouflage himself and his new companions.



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