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Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish Lesson

Updated on December 3, 2015
Measuring the fish before we dissect it
Measuring the fish before we dissect it

This is part 3 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Animals and Zoology. Peel your "skin" like a reptile, dissect a fish, make origami jumping frogs, compare amphibian and reptile eggs by feeling tapioca and grapes, and more as you study Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish! My lessons are geared toward 3rd-4th grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 11 children between the ages of 0-13. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, after school program, camp, or co-op!

Which cold-blooded vertebrate is your favorite?

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Inspecting a turtle, which is a coldblooded vertebrate
Inspecting a turtle, which is a coldblooded vertebrate

Introduction, Review, and Animals in Exodus

1. Stretch. Pray.

2. Review classification. If desired, sing first verse of "Six Kingdoms" & "Invertebrates" songs from previous lessons. (Find the links to the previous lessons by going to the section toward the bottom of this page titled "Ready for the next lesson?".)

3. Read about 10 plagues using some of "Exodus from Egypt" by Mary Auld. (Alternatively, you could read the passage from the Bible.) Ask the children to name all the cold-blooded vertebrates or invertebrates mentioned during the plagues. (The staff changes into a reptile [snake]. Fish die from the blood in the Nile River because of the blood. Amphibians [frogs] fill the land.)

Exodus from Egypt by Mary Auld
Exodus from Egypt by Mary Auld

Book to Read for Activity 3

Exodus from Egypt by Mary Auld - During the 10 plagues in Egypt, each type animal we are studying (fish, frogs, and snakes) is used or mentioned! This is a longer Bible passage to read than what we normally use in lessons, so I wanted pictures. I love the illustrations in the book as they are more realistic looking (so children will not confuse the story with cartoonish fiction), but they are still soft enough that even younger children will enjoy viewing them. I especially love that it stays consistent with the Biblical account.

Imitating mouth brooder fish using jellybean "eggs"
Imitating mouth brooder fish using jellybean "eggs"

Fish Overview

4. Quickly discuss the differences between endothermic & ectothermic (warm-blooded & cold-blooded) animals.

5. Read most of "Fish: Finned and Gilled Animals" by Suzanne Slade. While reading, have children open and close their mouths repeatedly to get air, just like the fish do. Briefly mention mouth brooders and have children each hold a handful of "eggs" (jellybeans) in their mouths without biting or swallowing them just like mouth brooders carry eggs in their mouths.

YOU WILL NEED: a bag of jellybeans (at least 100 jellybeans)

Book to read for activity 4: Fish

Fish: Finned and Gilled Animals (Amazing Science: Animal Classification)
Fish: Finned and Gilled Animals (Amazing Science: Animal Classification)

This was our favorite picture book giving an overview of fish and is ideal for a class read aloud book. It has nice illustrations, just the right amount of text, and includes a substantial amount of information in an interesting manner.

 
Using a balloon and water to demonstrate how fish bladders work
Using a balloon and water to demonstrate how fish bladders work

Fish Bladders

6. Demonstrate how fish bladders work. God designed fish to have a swim bladder that fills with air when they want to rise in the water, and it lets all the air out when they want to sink in the water. Demonstrate using a balloon and a large bowl of water. Blow up the balloon, and show how the filled "swim bladder" lifts the "fish" up near the surface of the water. Let the air out to show how that allows the fish to sink lower. The air is lighter than water, so it helps the fish to rise when the swim bladder is full. People have used a similar design in submarines.

YOU WILL NEED: a balloon (not inflated) & a bowl of water

Inspecting the gills of our fish
Inspecting the gills of our fish

Fish Anatomy and Dissection

7. If you have one, watch a fish swim. Talk about its fins. Discuss the anatomy of a fish.

8. Option 1: Dissect fish & review main character traits of a fish. Refer to this fish dissection lesson plan and/or this fish dissection lesson plan to provide you with procedures and questions to ask as you dissect the fish. Option 2: If you'd prefer to avoid a real dissection, you can use the 4D Vision Great White Shark Anatomy Model. Some of the children and families did not want to do a live dissection, so they instead used a 4D model figure. My children love taking this apart and putting it back together. It's over a foot long and has 20 detachable organs and body parts. It's very sturdy. The company also makes a frog anatomy model. http://www.amazon.com/Vision-Great-White-Shark-Anatomy/dp/B001YIT1YI

YOU WILL NEED: 10 extra-small & 3 medium sized pairs of disposable gloves & any sharp cutting tools (sharp kitchen shears work well), 3 hard, disposable plates, and 3 fish (One year we got ours frozen & ungutted from an Asian market. Another year we got some perch from someone's fishing pond.)

A fish scale magnified so that you can see the layers of growth.  Year one's growth is in the middle and then the rings grow outward -- just like tree rings.  You can also tell the difference between summer growth and winter growth.
A fish scale magnified so that you can see the layers of growth. Year one's growth is in the middle and then the rings grow outward -- just like tree rings. You can also tell the difference between summer growth and winter growth. | Source

Fish Scales

9. (Optional) As children finish washing their hands, let them look at fish scale under a microscope and count how old the fish is. Just like trees, fish scales grow a circle for each year a fish is alive. Honestly, we couldn't see any circles on the scales we looked at. I guess we needed a more powerful microscope or a larger fish. It was still neat to see the scale under the microscope anyway, though.

YOU WILL NEED: a microscope and microscope slide

Scales vs. Slime
Scales vs. Slime

Scales vs. Slime

10. Introduce herpetology: the study of reptiles and amphibians.

11. Scales vs. Slime: Let children touch a piece of clay with rows of shelled sunflower seeds stuck in it and a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with thin layer of non-stick cooking spray. Have children describe how each feels. Which do you they think represents the reptile skin? The amphibian skin? Do let them know this is a generalization because some toads have dry, rough skin & some geckos have smooth skin with inconspicuous scales. (Activity is from "Let's Hear It For Herps!" from the Ranger Rick's NatureScope series.)

YOU WILL NEED: a small plate with a piece of clay with rows of shelled sunflower seeds stuck in it and a small plate with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with thin layer of non-stick cooking spray

Amphibian vs. Reptile Eggs
Amphibian vs. Reptile Eggs

Amphibian vs. Reptile Eggs

12. Let children touch some tapioca that's been sprinkled in a small bowl filled with boiling water and touch a few grapes and/or ping pong balls laid on sand or dirt in a bowl. Have the children describe some of the differences between them. Which do you think reps reptile eggs? Amphibian eggs? Amphibian eggs don't have shells, so they do not have much protection from drying out. Reptile eggs stay moist because they are laid in water or near moist areas on land. They're firm but not brittle (like bird eggs). Reptile eggs can vary. Turtle eggs are round with a smooth shell. Snake eggs are oval & leathery. Most amphibians and reptiles lay eggs, but some do bear live young. (Activity is from "Let's Hear It For Herps!" from the Ranger Rick's NatureScope series.)

YOU WILL NEED: a small bowl with some tapioca that's been sprinkled in a container filled with water and a bowl with a few grapes and/or ping pong balls laid on sand or dirt

Comparing our tongues to amphibian tongues
Comparing our tongues to amphibian tongues

Amphibians

13. Read most of "Amphibians: Water-to-Land Animals" by Laura Purdie Salas. When it talks about amphibians' tongues being connected at the front of their mouths, have the children stick out their tongues and see where theirs is connected. Observe the person's tongue next to you to see where their tongue is connected. Ask, "Why do you think God created amphibians' tongues to be connected at the front instead of the back?"

14. Quickly look at pictures in "Amphibian" by Barry Clarke (or look at pictures from a laptop). It includes pictures of fossilized amphibians. It says they're millions of years old, but they're really just great evidence of the flood during the time of Noah.

Book we used for activity 13: Amphibians

Amphibians: Water-to-Land Animals (Amazing Science: Animal Classification)
Amphibians: Water-to-Land Animals (Amazing Science: Animal Classification)

This was our favorite book giving an overview of amphibians and is ideal for a class read aloud book. It has nice illustrations, just the right amount of text, and includes a substantial amount of information in an interesting manner.

 
Origami frog close up made with white paper
Origami frog close up made with white paper
You can also make the origami frog using green copy paper (what can be used in printers).  We learned the hard way that using construction paper makes a "lethargic" frog that does not jump as well.
You can also make the origami frog using green copy paper (what can be used in printers). We learned the hard way that using construction paper makes a "lethargic" frog that does not jump as well.

15. (Optional) If you have them, let children pet or look at a live frog. We also passed around a preserved toad.

16. Make an origami jumping frog. Use these directions or any other you prefer. (If doing this with younger children, pre-fold the paper and then unfold it again. Let the young children re-fold the paper using the creased lines as their guide.)

YOU WILL NEED: 10 pieces of paper & 1 pre-made model

17. Read "Growing Frogs" by Vivian French.

Book to read for activity 17: Frogs

Growing Frogs
Growing Frogs

This was our favorite picture book on the life cycle of a frog. It is about a girl watching as she observes the life cycle of frogs.

 
Examining a snake skin
Examining a snake skin
Holding a pet snake
Holding a pet snake

Snake Skin

18. (Optional) Pass around a snake skin and/or a pet snake. Ask what we'll study next. Point out the difference between the upper scales and lower scales. Ask why they think God made them that way. (The design of the lower scale allows them to climb and move. The upper scales are like armor to protect it from predators.) *If children do handle a live snake, make sure they wash their hands afterward.

YOU WILL NEED: snake skin and/or a pet snake

Book option to read for activity 19: Reptiles

Reptiles: Scaly-Skinned Animals (Amazing Science: Animal Classification)
Reptiles: Scaly-Skinned Animals (Amazing Science: Animal Classification)

This was our favorite picture book giving an overview of reptiles and is ideal for a class read aloud book. It has nice illustrations, just the right amount of text, and includes a substantial amount of information in an interesting manner.

 

Book option to read if you have younger children (preschool and kindergarten aged)

Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

This was our second favorite picture book giving an overview of reptiles. It is longer than the above book and has slightly less information; however, it is fun to read because it is written in a rhyming Dr. Seuss style.

 
Shedding snake skin activity: shedding a sock
Shedding snake skin activity: shedding a sock
Shedding "skin" (dried Elmer's glue) like a reptile
Shedding "skin" (dried Elmer's glue) like a reptile

Reptile Overview

19. Squirt a small amount of liquid Elmer's glue on the back of each child's hand and tell them to smooth it out so that it is in a thin layer. Tell them to leave it there to dry.

-Read most of "Reptiles: Scaly-skinned Animals" by Laura Purdie Salas or "Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles" by Tish Rabe. While reading:

-Tell children that gecko lizards can clean their eyeballs with their tongues. Ask them what they can reach with their tongues.

-Mention that snakes shed their skin by rubbing their bodies against rocks or other surfaces. First give them a small amount of Elmer's glue on the backs of their hands and have them rub it around to make a thin layer. Let it dry.

-While glue is drying, have children try to take off their sock without using their hands. They can rub their foot along the carpet.

YOU WILL NEED: extra children's socks (or just tell everyone to bring a sock for each child) and Elmer's glue

20. Quickly look through some of the pictures in "Eyewitness: Reptile" by: Colin McCarthy (or just look at photos from a laptop). Again, fossilized reptiles are not millions of years old. They're really just great evidence of the flood during the time of Noah.

Petting and holding a fence lizard
Petting and holding a fence lizard

Reptiles and Review

21. (Optional) Let children observe, pet, and discuss more about lizards. (We used anole and fence lizards that one family caught for the day. They wore gloves when handling them since they do nip occasionally.)

22. (Optional) Sing "Cold-blooded Vertebrae" song. (Tune: When Johnny Comes Marching Home) from From "Lyrical Life Science Volume 1"

YOU WILL NEED: words to the song printed out

23. (Optional) If you are not limited by time, allow children to select an amphibian, a fish, or a reptile from "Draw Write Now, Book 6: Animals Habitats -- On Land, Pond & Rivers, Oceans" (Draw-Write-Now) and draw it.

YOU WILL NEED: paper, pencils, and crayons

24. Review what we learned.

Lyrical Life Science, Volume 1 Audio CD
Lyrical Life Science, Volume 1 Audio CD

CD we used for activity 22: Lyrical Life Science

Lyrical Life Science, Volume 1 Audio CD (found using the amazon.com ASIN code: 0964636778) is a wonderful CD! We love this series that introduces science using catchy tunes that are jam-packed with factual information. My children love singing the coldblooded vertebrate song from this! We also use the accompanying book with line drawings and much more information of all the animals by classes and orders. This particular CD includes the scientific method, characteristics of all living things, vascular plants, algae, fungi and non vascular plants, invertebrates, coldblooded vertebrates, birds, and several types of microscopic organisms. You can download indiviual songs from amazon.com if you would like to just get the one for coldblooded vertebrates.

Draw Write Now, Book 6: Animals Habitats -- On Land, Pond & Rivers, Oceans (Draw-Write-Now) by Marie Hablitzel
Draw Write Now, Book 6: Animals Habitats -- On Land, Pond & Rivers, Oceans (Draw-Write-Now) by Marie Hablitzel

Handwriting Book We Used For Activity 23

I love incorporating as many subjects as I can when doing unit studies. Draw Write Now, Book 6: Animals Habitats -- On Land, Pond & Rivers, Oceans (Draw-Write-Now) by Marie Hablitzel is a great handwriting lesson book (ideal for Kindergarten/1st grade level), and it also includes wonderful drawing lessons of animals that both young and older children can easily follow with success. This isn't a picture book to read; instead, it's an art and handwriting book. We used it for drawing pictures of reptiles and amphibians. It has simple step-by-step directions to draw a frog, lizard, alligator, and more. Even my 4 year old can successfully follow the directions alongside my 8 year old. It also includes a brief handwriting lesson and the creature, which I use for my 4 year old's handwriting practice.

Animal Classification Lapbook
Animal Classification Lapbook

Lapbook Homework

Homework:

Below are the lapbook pages you can print out and have your child complete to review the information we learned at co-op. Children will be able to show off their completed lapbooks at our end of the unit presentations. Feel free to add more or less that the below links.

Basic sheets:

Fish

Amphibians and Reptiles

Extras:

Fish Life Cycle: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/salmon.php

Fish Lapbook: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/fish_and_fishing_lapbook.php

Frog Lapbook: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/Frog_Lapbook.php

Many Reptile & Amphibian Lapbook Links: http://joyfulpamela2.hubpages.com/hub/reptiles-amphibians-lessons-worksheets-lapbooks

Reptile Classification: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/lizard_animal_study.php

Joke: What type of amphibian loves to tell jokes?

The silly-mander!

Material List for the Lesson

EVERYONE NEEDS TO BRING PER CHILD:
-a sock
-Optional: live fish, amphibian, and/or reptile specimens you could share with us
-Optional: snake skin

MATERIALS TO BE ASSIGNED TO BRING FOR THE GROUP:
-"Exodus from Egypt" by Mary Auld
-"Fish: Finned and Gilled Animals" by Suzanne Slade
-a balloon (not inflated) & a bowl of water
-a bag of jellybeans (at least 100 jellybeans)
-10 extra-small & 3 medium sized pairs of disposable gloves & any sharp cutting tools (sharp kitchen shears work well), 3 hard, disposable plates, and 3 fish (One year we got ours frozen & ungutted from an Asian market. Another year we got some perch from someone's fishing pond.)
-(Optional) a microscope and microscope slide
-a small plate with a piece of clay with rows of shelled sunflower seeds stuck in it and a small plate with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with thin layer of non-stick cooking spray
-a small bowl with some tapioca that's been sprinkled in a container filled with water and a bowl with a few grapes and/or ping pong balls laid on sand or dirt
-"Amphibians: Water-to-Land Animals" by Laura Purdie Salas
-1 pre-made model of an origami frog
-(optional) "Growing Frogs" by Vivian French
-"Reptiles: Scaly-skinned Animals" by Laura Purdie Salas or "Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles" by Tish Rabe
-liquid Elmer's glue
-(optional) words to the song printed out: "Cold-blooded Vertebrae" song. (Tune: When Johnny Comes Marching Home) from From "Lyrical Life Science Volume 1"

Joke: Why couldn't the reptile talk?

He had a frog in his throat!

Looking for More Books to Compliment This Lesson?

These are the additional books that we read and enjoyed while studying cold-blooded vertebrates.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne - All images are from amazon.com.
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne - All images are from amazon.com.

More Great Books We Read & Used

"Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau: by Jennifer Berne is a beautifully written and illustrated book about him. It has rhyming text. Even my 2 year old enjoyed this book. Also look for "The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau" by Dan Yaccarino, which was our second favorite picture book biography on Cousteau. We also enjoyed reading "Red-Eyed Tree Frog" by Joy Cowley, "Starting Life Frog" by Claire Llewellyn, "Tree Frog Hears a Sound" by Rebecca Johnson, "Wanda and the Frogs by Barbara Azore, "The Frog Alphabet Book" by Jerry Pallotta, "About Reptiles" by Cathryn P. Sill, "How to Hide a Crocodile and Other Reptiles" by Ruth Heller, "Who Lives in an Alligator Hole?" by Anne Rockwell, "Snakes Are Hunters" by Patricia Lauber, "Look Out for Turtles!" by Melvin Berger, "The Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book" by Jerry Pallotta, "The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream" by Joanna Cole, "Salmon Stream" Carol Reed-Jones, "The Underwater Alphabet Book" by Jerry Pallotta, "Wish for a Fish" by Bonnie Worth, and "Colorful Chameleons!" by Michelle Knudsen.

The Voyage Beyond (Jonathan Park Radio Drama) Audio CD by Pat Roy and Douglas W. Phillips - Image credit: amazon.com
The Voyage Beyond (Jonathan Park Radio Drama) Audio CD by Pat Roy and Douglas W. Phillips - Image credit: amazon.com

Audio Story We Used For This Lesson to Learn More About Fish

The Voyage Beyond (Jonathan Park Radio Drama) Audio CD by Pat Roy and Douglas W. Phillips - My entire family loves this extremely well-done Christian audio drama. We own the entire series and have listened to them numerous times. In this volume Jonathan Park and his family explore the depths of the ocean and see the marvelous designs of our Creator in the fish of the ocean and many other unique sea creatures...amidst the many exciting twists and turns in the face-paced plot. This mentions quite a bit about the classification of fish.

Joke: Why was the newt named Tiny?

Because he was my newt! ("minute")

Our Favorite Video Clips: Tadpoles to Frogs *Also look for the BBC video clips on Reptiles & Amphibians

Life Cycle of a Frog

Bille Nye The Science Guy on Reptiles -- Do note that this does have evolutionary ideas, but it also has fun and informational footage.

Metamorphosis: Amphibian Nature Documentary

Steve Irwin feeding Agro

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Ready for the next lesson?

Examining life in pond water during Lesson 1: Taxonomy, Animal Classification, and Invertebrates Lesson
Examining life in pond water during Lesson 1: Taxonomy, Animal Classification, and Invertebrates Lesson

Examine pond water and yeast cells under a microscope, test out various insect mouths, dissect a fish, create an egg model, perform a play about mammals, present on a specific animal phylum or genius, and more during this fun 5 part hands-on unit study on animal classification!

  • Taxonomy, Animal Classification, and Invertebrates Lesson - This is part 1 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on zoology. Examine pond water and yeast cells under a microscope, dissect an oyster, sing “The Six Kingdom Song,” eat 5 of the kingdoms on a supreme pizza, and more!
  • Insects and Spiders Lesson - This is part 2 of a 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. Test out various insect mouth types, examine insect parts under a microscope, make and eat edible ants, test out spider webs for vibration, and more!
  • Birds Lesson - This is part 4 of a 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. Create an egg model, make edible nests, test out various types of beaks, compare bird bones with mammal bones, examine various feathers, dissect a gizzard, sing a song about bird traits, and more!
  • Mammals Lesson - This is part 5 of a 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. Perform a play about mammals, experience how blubber keeps marine mammals warm, sniff out your “baby,” examine animal skulls, dissect an owl pellet and piece together a rodent skeleton, and more!
  • Zoology Presentations and Field Trip Ideas This describes the culminating activity for the 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. The children each presented on an assigned phylum, class, or order of animals. They also sang some of the animal classification songs and enjoyed an animal-themed meal. (Recipes are included.) Also included are the field trips we attended during this unit.

© 2011 iijuan12

Which Is Your Favorite Reptile or Amphibian? - Or just leave me a note. I love getting feedback from you!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great job, Shannon!

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Very cool ideas! Adding this to our reptile / amphibian lens for our future studies. Thanks! =D

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      enjoyed your lens tonight, thank you for sharing, blessed and liked.

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