Island Explorers Curriculum Home


Unit 2

Lesson Plan 1

Lesson Plan 2

Lesson Plan 3

Lesson Plan 4

Lesson Plan 5

Lesson Plan 6

Lesson Plan 7

Concepts/Objectives | Vocabulary/Background | Activity | Extension


Lesson Plan 5






  • What does our body shape tell us about how we move?
    (we have legs for walking and running)
  • What does a bird's beak tell us about what kinds of food the bird might eat?
    (seeds or nectar from flowers depending on the shape of its beak)
  • What can we say about how a fish moves by looking at its body shape or form?
    (it has fins to swim)
  • Let's see what else we can learn about how a fish lives (functions) by examining its body shape. We'll try to discover how the fish's form and function compare to other bodies, like our own.

Activity #1: "What's on the Outside"
In this activity, students will examine the external anatomy of one fish and compare several different types of fish from the market. Students will infer the living habit of the fish by comparing these observations with the "Fish Shapes" information sheet included in the activity.
Have at least TWO types of fish available for this activity (it is best to have several fish but if you are only able to get two, the same fish can be used several times). To reduce out-of-pocket expenses, ask your fish market clerk to hold fish that are too "old" to sell for you. Markets will sometimes keep these fish in their freezer for you. To reduce "fishy" odors, wash the fish with a little liquid detergent and cool water before class. Blot dry with paper towels.

  1. Have students examine their fish using the worksheets as a guides. When they finish, ask them to look at another fish and compare it to theirs.
  2. Using the fish diagram, have students draw their fish and label the parts. Ask them to write down how they think the fish might use each of the structures.
  3. Students should then work through the "What's on the Outside" worksheet, using the "Fish Shapes" information sheet for #6.
  4. Ask the students to compare the body parts of the fish that correspond to humans - how are they similar? Different?


Activity #2: "Gyotaku" (fish rubbing/printing)
Students will be shown art work involving printmaking. Printmaking will be defined and explained.

  1. How do you think this art work was created and what does it look like?
    The art work was painted, but it looks like it was stamped onto the paper like a rubber stamp.
  2. Woodcuts used to be used to make designs in clay or wax.
  3. At one time, fishermen used this method to keep a record of fish size or shape.

The Japanese art form known as Gyotaku (pronounced ghio-ta-koo), meaning fish rubbing (gyo=fish, taku=rubbing), is an extension of the ancient Oriental technique of stone rubbing. Stone rubbing developed in China along with the inventions of paper to transfer detailed designs from relief surfaces. Like its ancestor, Gyotaku is both useful and artistic. Japanese fishermen display prints of their exceptional catches; tackle shops use them as advertisements and scientists print fish to obtain detailed morphological information. The art of Nature Printing is similar to fish rubbing but the artist uses plant parts, lace, shells, or even minerals as templates.

Special Japanese art papers are used for best results The paper is dampened and molded over the subject, then the ink is applied to the drying paper. A third method developed by printer Dr. Eric Hochberg uses wet paper applied to a dry, painted surface. The renewed popularity of nature printing, including Gyotaku, has given rise to a number of exhibits and to the U.S. based Nature Printing Society. To join the Nature Printing Society and receive their newsletter write to: Nature Printing Society, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.

  1. The most important step in fish printing is preparation of the fish. The surface of the fish must be thoroughly cleaned because mucus and dirt will obscure the exquisite detail. Wash the fish in soap (e.g. dish detergent, Boraxo) and water until the mucus is gone. Salt or baking soda can also be used. Be careful not to remove any scales or damage the fins. Areas with missing scales will show up with a much different texture on your print.
  2. Dry the fish off completely and place it on a newspaper-covered table. Moisture will obscure the detail, so meticulously and continuously dry off the mouth, nostrils, fins, gills, and other moisture-collecting areas. Plug the anus of the fish with a small piece of paper towel or cotton to prevent leakage onto your printing paper. Also, place small pieces of paper towel under the gill to absorb moisture. Keep the fish out of direct sunlight because the fins will dry out too fast and later, when the ink has been applied it may dry before you make your "gyotaku."
  3. Form the modeling clay into a shape similar to each of the fins. Position the fins in a natural pose and place the clay underneath the fins for support. Straight pins can be used to hold the fins in place. Whenever possible, try to avoid the use of pins because they can damage the fins and show up on the print. Now you are ready to print. Using a stiff 1/2 to 1-inch brush, apply a thin coat of ink. Apply the ink from the head toward the tail, doing the fins last. When applying the ink to the fins hold a piece of paper along the margin of the fins so you won't slop ink onto the clay. Leave the eye blank; you will paint them in later. After removing excess ink from your brush, brush firmly from the tail toward the head. This will catch the ink along the edge of the scales and spines, producing sharper detail.
  4. Carefully place paper or newsprint over the top of the fish. Newsprint is useful for the first print to remove the remaining mucus and to experiment. Starting at the head, press the paper firmly with your fingers over the entire inked fish. Be careful not to move the paper excessively. With round-bodied fish you will have to move the paper somewhat to avoid wrinkles. Try to minimize the paper movement to avoid blurred or double impressions on some parts of the fish. After the paper has been pressed down on the entire inked fish, remove the paper and look for ways to improve the next print. The fish can then be re-inked and the entire process repeated.

1. Discuss how in ancient cultures this method would be used to record unusual fish.