Build a Fish and Fish Detectives





Students will learn the anatomy of “finfish” and use descriptions of the anatomy to identify certain local species of seafood


What are the parts of a fish?
What are some local types of fish?


Sets of “fish parts” – cutouts of different parts of fish anatomy, with their names written on the back. Printed out game sheets for the Fish ID portion.


Intro (5 Minutes)

Begin the lesson by asking your students if they eat fish. If they don’t, chances are someone they know does. Or their pets eat fish in their pet food, or they could even use fish products on gardens.

Are the parts of a fish the same as other farm animals? Are there any similarities or differences?

Build a Fish (5-10 minutes)

Explain that you are going to learn about the parts of a fish by building one of your own! Distribute a set of fish parts to each student (or to each small group, if you have a bigger class). Explain that each student/group will have enough pieces to build their very own fish. Give the students a couple minutes to put together the pieces to make an accurate fish.

Walk around the room and see how the groups are doing. When they seem like they’re finishing up, draw their direction back up to you. On the board, start drawing a fish. Ask your students to flip over one of their pieces and name a part of the fish, and then tell you where to put it on your drawing. Label each part you draw up with the name, and continue until you have recreated an anatomically correct fish on the board.

Collect your materials (leave your drawing on the board, or erase it if you want to make the next part of the activity more challenging).

Fish Detectives ID Game (15-20 Minutes)

Explain that the class will now use the terms they just learned to identify fish that can be caught off the coast of Massachusetts. Distribute the Fish ID board to each student (or groups again). Explain that you are going to give three clues about a fish, and then the students will have to identify on their boards which fish you are describing.

For example, you could read the following three clues slowly and repeatedly: “For fish number one, I am looking for a fish with a very long and thin body, a small pectoral fin, and a very long dorsal fin that stretches all the way down its back.” After those three clues, students should write a number 1 in the box that depicts a Cusk. There should be one clue that definitely sets the variety you’re looking for out from the rest (as in the attached materials), unless you want to make this extra challenging.

By the time you walk through all of the fish, go over the correct answers as a group or write them on the board.

To wrap up, ask your students to keep the varieties of these fish in mind the next time they eat fish, go fishing, or go shopping for fish. See if they can come up with ways to identify the other fish from Massachusetts.