Objective: This activity provides an art experience that will encourage brainstorming about proper care of wildlife in their natural habitat as well as in habitat sustained by humans.

Materials: 2 paper plates per student, 1 pipe cleaner cut into 4 sections per student, 4 fish, 4 pieces of fishing line, cut in different lengths, 1 large piece of blue plastic wrap, crayons and markers, scissors, tape and staplers, "Somethin's Fishy Around Here!" handout

Background: Unlike in nature, a fish habitat can be controlled, regulated and developed in a fish aquarium. There are many types of fish aquariums, ranging in size, shape and abilities.

Having a successful fish tank is not difficult, nor is it necessarily a lot of work, provided you use a little common sense. A few suggestions for getting started are: 1.) Try to learn as much about setting up and caring for the aquarium as you can before beginning; 2.) Have patience because setting up a tank can take up to 2 months; 3.) Provide an environment that minimized fish stress; 4.) Perform regular maintenance on your tank; and 5.) Choose fish carefully. There are many Internet web sites that can give you information and tips for proper care and maintenance of your tank, as well as care of your fish. Once such site is FINS: The Fish Information Service - www.actwin.com/fish. We highly recommend this site for getting started!

During the activity, share with the students information you have about aquarium care. Stress to them that this habitat is a controlled environment and that nature doesn't usually work the same way. Encourage discussion about the differences between an artificially created habitat (aquarium, zoos, ocean parks, etc.) and a natural habitat.

Hand out 2 paper plates to each student. Have student cut out the center section of one of the plates. Set aside. On the other plate, have student color an underwater scene on the serving side of the plate (not the back!). Encourage student by telling him/her that this will be the background of their aquarium.

Hand out 4 fish per student. Have student color fish.

Give each student 4 pieces of fishing line. Have student attach one fish to the end of each piece of line. Next, give each student 1 pipe cleaner and instruct him/her to cut into 4 pieces (you can also do this prior to the activity to shorten the length of time).

Tell student to tape 3 pieces of pipe cleaner to the bottom rim of the colored paper plate (A suggestion would be to tape them on to the center section of the colored paper plate.).

Next, have student tape each piece of fishing line and fish to the top rim of the colored paper plate. With the remaining piece of pipe cleaner, have student bend into the shape of a hook. After bending, attach to the top rim of the colored paper plate. This will be used to hang the aquarium up in your classroom or on the window.

After everything is assembled in the colored paper plate, carefully place the cut-out paper plate, serving side facing the assembled plate, on top of the other plate (the rims should be touching). Place 4 pieces of clear tape around the edges to hold in place.

Take the large piece of blue plastic wrap and cover the plates (the blue plastic wrap represents water!), placing it on top of the cut-out plate and wrapping it around to the back of the colored plate. Staple around the edges, being careful to leave the hook sticking out the top.

Hang up in the classroom or on a window.

Lead a discussion about what each student would do to take care of their fish aquarium if it were a real tank. Hand out "Somethin's Fishy Around Here" and talk with students about the handout.

Set up an actual fish aquarium in your classroom. Make a trip to a local lake or pond and collect fish and other creatures for your tank.

Have students draw and color pictures of fish, rocks, plants and any other object that might be in an aquarium. Cut out the pictures and glue them to craft sticks to create hand puppets. Students can use the puppets to tell stories from books or from their own imaginations.

Mix 1/4 cup of warm water with six teaspoons of salt and 3 drops of food coloring in a small container. Mix well. Have students paint an aquarium scene with the mixture on white paper. Let dry. The water evaporates but the colored salt remains, creating beautiful pictures. This will give you an opportunity to discuss evaporation (and is a good segue into the water cycle).
Grade Level:

Subject Areas:
Visual Arts

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Visual Arts
Standard 1, Standard 2


Critical Thinking

Prior Preparation: Lead a class discussion about aquariums. Encourage students to share stories about their home aquariums. Ask questions about care and maintenance of their home aquarium, types of fish used in their aquarium, and what type of environment they feel is a good environment to raise fish.

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