ALEX Lesson Plan


Fred the Fish - A Little River Trip

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Larry Beane
System: Informal Education Partner
School: Informal Education Partner
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 29802


Fred the Fish - A Little River Trip


Little River is home to 47 kinds of fish including the threatened "Blue Shiner" Cyprinella caerulea. These fish depend on the good water quality at Little River. This skit allows students to observe pollution's effects on a small scale and allows them to make choices affecting the environment.  This lesson plan is adapted from Chilton-Stringham, Patricia and Wolanin, Jan (1991). National Science Teachers Association, Karen K. Lind (Eds.) Water, Stones, and Fossil Bones (pp. 54-57).

This lesson plan is made possible through the ALEX and the U.S. National Park Service Partnership.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC (1)
9. Identify ways to conserve Earth's resources.
Example: turning off lights and water when not in use
SC (3)
13. Describe ways to sustain natural resources, including recycling, reusing, conserving, and protecting the environment.
  • Recognizing the impact of society on human health and environmental conditions
  • SS2010 (1) Living and Working Together in Family and Community and State
    7. Describe how occupational and recreational opportunities in the local community and state are affected by the physical environment. (Alabama)
    Examples: occupational—commercial fishing and tourism in Gulf coast areas (Alabama)
    recreational—camping and hiking in mountain areas, fishing and waterskiing in lake areas
    SS2010 (1) Living and Working Together in Family and Community and State
    9. Differentiate between natural resources and human-made products.
  • Listing ways to protect our natural resources
  • Examples: conserving forests by recycling newspapers, conserving energy by turning off lights, promoting protection of resources by participating in activities such as Earth Day and Arbor Day
    SS2010 (3) Geographic and Historical Studies: People, Places, and Regions
    3. Describe ways the environment is affected by humans in Alabama and the world. (Alabama)
    Examples: crop rotation, oil spills, landfills, clearing of forests, replacement of cleared lands, restocking of fish in waterways
  • Using vocabulary associated with human influence on the environment, including irrigation, aeration, urbanization, reforestation, erosion, and migration
  • SC2015 (K)
    6. Identify and plan possible solutions (e.g., reducing, reusing, recycling) to lessen the human impact on the local environment.*
    SC2015 (5)
    17. Design solutions, test, and revise a process for cleaning a polluted environment (e.g., simulating an oil spill in the ocean or a flood in a city and creating a solution for containment and/or cleanup).*

    Local/National Standards:


    As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of

    The characteristics of organisms
    Life cycles of organisms
    Organisms and environments


    As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of

    Personal health
    Characteristics and changes in populations
    Types of resources
    Changes in environments
    Science and technology in local challenges



    Primary Learning Objective(s):


    Students will identify:
    • ways they are affected by pollution.
    • ways we can reduce polluted water.
    • ways in which they can help prevent pollution.

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

    Students will appreciate that we have one of the cleaner rivers in the state of Alabama. Students will think about what they do in their daily lives to influence water quality.

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    0 to 30 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:

    1. (Low tech option) Make  11x17 laminated cards with illustrations of "Fred" from digital slide  program (Slides 13-22).
    2. Nine 5x7 laminated script pages (can be above)
    3. "Fred the Fish", fishing lure on clear fishing line to suspend him from the fish bowl using pencil
    4. Cold tap water to fill Fred's fish bowl
    5. 5 labeled clear plastic cups/jars (use closed containers and baggies much better)
    6. Soil
    7. Brown sugar ( I mix with a little coffee creamer powder)
    8. Plastic aquarium plants
    9. Dark syrup (instead of oil)
    10. Salt (substitute sugar a biologically better answer)
    11. Punched paper dots and part of Kleenex for diaper
    12. Detergent in warm tap water (substitute / add red food coloring)
    13. Red food coloring
    14. Used coffee grounds
    15. Green food coloring
    16. Clear jar (to hold strained paper dots)
    17. Strainer
    18. Rubber or vinyl gloves
    19. Pencil or stick to hang Fred from

    Technology Resources Needed:

    (May opt for the slide program instead of the cards # 1 above) 

    Slides 1-12 are the Little River introduction to Blue Shiners. Slides 13-22 are the Fred the Fish pictures.

    Digital projector, computer, remote mouse, screen - interactive or not.


    Prepare materials and equipment before lesson. 

    Read script from slides or cards to prepare.  Additional information on Blue Shiners may be found at:

    USFWS Blue Shiner Page

    USGS Blue Shiner Page

    Florida Integrated Science Center Red Shiner Threatens Blue Shiner

    Outdoor Alabama Blue Shiner Page

    Blue Shiner Recovery Plan

    Arkive Blue Shiner

    Conasuaga River


    Set up for the program

    1. Fill the numbered (2-9, no # 1) plastic cups/jars/ bags with the following:
    2. Soil (from farmers)
    3. Brown sugar and powder creamer (fertilizer)
    4. Dark syrup (oil)
    5. Sugar (Salt from road department)
    6. Paper dots (litter)
    7. Dish detergent and warm water Red food coloring (pollution from factories)
    8. Coffee grounds in container in the cup (raw sewage

    Line up the plastic cups/jars in the order they will be used.

    • Fill "Fred's" container with cold tap water.
    • Suspend "Fred" into water with clear fishing line from a ruler.
    • Adjust the length of the string until the fish is suspended midway in the fish bowl.
    • Place the fish bowl on the blue circle mat.
    • Set up the 11x17 laminated cards on an easel on the table/desk.
    Have your 5x7,11 x 17 laminated instruction cards, or digital slide program ready to use.

    1. Introduce some of Little River Canyon National Preserve's fishes. This could be a very short introduction of the Blue Shiner, or an extensive listing of all 47 fish depending on age group and time.  Use slides 1-12.

    2. Ask volunteers to assist by take their places with one of the pollutants (in order). Volunteers read the card or slide and a volunteer will pour the materials into the fishbowl.

    3. Introduce "Fred" to the class. Tell them that Fred has lived its whole life in Little River. Now, Fred is going to leave the preserve and journey downstream. The class has been invited to share in Fred's adventure.

    Ask, "HOW IS FRED?" and "Would YOU swim in Little River now?"

    4. As you or a volunteer reads your instruction card/slide, ask a volunteer to come to the front and pour in the appropriate pollution.

    After each item is dumped into the fish bowl, ask, "HOW IS FRED?" and "Would YOU swim in it now?"

    5. Expand on the section about litter. Pretend there is a woman with a beautiful, small baby by the river. The baby has "pooped" in its diaper. The woman changes the diaper and instead of throwing it in the trash, she throws the diaper into the river. (I use a toilet tissue, or other soft tissue folded for a diaper between my index and middle finger while telling this story.  Dip the baby with wagging fingers in the water to wet the diaper)  She has thrown the diaper in the exact place that we are about to go swimming. "WHO IS IT GOING TO HURT?" Hopefully they will say "US!"

    6. (optional) Go to each person and pretend that they have just thrown a piece of litter into the river. Say, "After all, what is one piece of litter going to hurt?" Continue until each person has "thrown" litter into the water.

    7. Then ask, "Now that we have all thrown something into the river, WHO IS IT GOING TO HURT?"

    8. Continue reading the cards until all "pollution" has been dumped into Fred's bowl. After each of the ingredients have been dumped in, ask, "Would any of you swim in this water?"

    9.  Tell about toxic waste dumps.  Put on gloves if using them.  Use the dropper to add a few drops of undiluted green food coloring while telling about the toxic waste.  Allow the drops to slowly spread.  After slide 21 or the laminated sheet from slide 21, tell them that even though Fred is a tough, little fish, even he cannot survive poisonous chemicals in the water. (optional: I do not like to do this part.) Slowly, let the string go so that Fred will sink to the bottom of the container. Tell them that Fred is now dead.

    The mood should be somber after the news that Fred is dead. You will want to cheer the students up by letting them know that "Fred" is not a real fish, we use him as an example so that the real "Freds" don't die from pollution in Little River.

    I have changed Fred's outcome (slide 22) to living because I know each of you will grow up to help keep the water cleaner. Talk about jobs where the responsibility could be theirs.

    10. Offer maps, brochures, and invite them to come out and enjoy the park.

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    Assessment Strategies

    Sumarize by asking these questions:

    1. What are some ways to stop Fred's water from being polluted?
    2. Who does it hurt when water is polluted?
    3. What can you do to make a difference?


    • Assess pollutants as to whether they are solid, liquid, gas, or energy.
    • Identify materials as soluble or insoluble.
    • Identify more common pollutants and solutions to the pollution. 
    • Students may research the fishes at Little River Canyon, Blue Shiners, or map the habitat of Blue Shiners.



    Before the program brief the students needing assistance and/or assign a peer-tutors to explain the lesson a little better.

    Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

    Presentation of Material Environment
    Time Demands Materials
    Attention Using Groups and Peers
    Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
    Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.