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Identifying the Fish

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Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes

After exploring the stream and collecting data, students were curious about the fish they caught. What kind of fish is it? On top of that, teachers realized that the students were still unsure if the water in our stream is completely fresh or if it might have some salt water in it. Some students felt they were sure it was fresh water.

“It (the water in the stream) comes from the rain.”, William said in a discussion. But, Paul said, “It may have a little salt water in it, we are pretty close to the ocean.” In order to allow the students to construct their own knowledge, we brought back a picture of the fish we caught and we had a lesson on the different types of fish. For example, some fish can survive in both salt and freshwater, while some fish can only live in fresh and some can only live in salt.

The teacher asked, “If we find out what kind of fish we caught, could we determine what type of water we have?” The class agreed that this would be a good place to start and we then tried to identify our fish. However, we found that trying to identify one small fish, found in a small stream in New Jersey, was complicated. There are a lot of fish out there. Using the book above, we flipped through pages and pages of freshwater fish.

Instead of giving the students the answer or making them feel overwhelmed with the thick field identification book, the teachers selected 19 species of fish. We then placed pictures of the fish along with the name of the fish around the outdoor property and had students find all 19 and record the names of the fish. We then asked them which of the 19 was the fish that they caught in the stream.

Identifying the Fish Yellow Perch

To narrow down our identification efforts, students had to identify our caught fish from 19 different fishes. Number 14, the Yellow Perch.


fish number 18, the Tiger Muskie

Camille records fish number 18, the Tiger Muskie. “Nope, not our fish”


In the end, this activity gave students the power to identify the fish that they themselves caught. The teachers did not come in and tell them what fish they caught, we helped them to find the answers themselves. Want to know what fish we caught? Ask your student at home.

Michael searches for more fish

Michael searches for more fish.

Now, we asked the class, why did we catch only one kind of fish in all the days we went fishing? Why only the females? Where are the males?


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