10. Gone Fishin' - Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

  1. Begin class with a discussion of fishing. What kinds of fish do you eat? What do you know about where fish come from and how they are caught? Who has ever gone fishing before?
  2. Introduce today’s activity. Students will become fishermen and women for the day. These are the criteria/rules for the game:
    • 4 fisherpersons will be fishing in each ocean (a paper plate). You cannot touch, tip or move the ocean!
    • Each fisherperson will be given 2 fishing poles (straws) and a net (a short length of tape) to fish with. There should be NO fishing with hands! Each fisherperson will also get a boat (a napkin) onto which any fish that are caught should be placed. Fish that fall out of the boat onto the table do not count!
    • You will be fishing in your ocean for 4 years. Each year you will have 30 seconds to bring in your catch.  
    • There are 4 different kinds of fish in the ocean. Each is worth a certain amount of money on the market. Goldfish are worth $3, Peanut Fish are worth $5, M&M Fish are worth $5, and Peanut M&M Fish are worth $10.
    • You must earn at least $5 of income each year to stay in business. However, you should try to earn as much money as possible.
    • At the end of each year, the fish have a chance to reproduce. For every 2 fish of that species, they will make 2 baby fish. Fish mate in pairs. Single fish don’t reproduce.
    • The fish exist in a food web and need to have food in order to survive. Goldfish eat seaweed of which there is always a lot in the ocean. Peanut Fish and M&M Fish eat Goldfish; there must be at least 1 Goldfish in the ocean for these fish to survive. Peanut M&M Fish eats both Peanut Fish and M&M fish; there must be at least 1 Peanut Fish and 1 M&M fish in the ocean for these fish to survive.
  3. Pass out the data tables and handout. Have one person from each group collect a plate, 8 straws, 4 napkins and a roll of tape for the members of their group. Students may use the straws and tape to create any fishing device they want. The key is to get fish out of the ocean and safely onto their boat.
  4. Meanwhile, the teacher should go to each ocean and start off each ocean with: 4 peanut M&Ms, 4 peanuts, 4 M&Ms and 4 goldfish. If students discuss strategy at this time, let them. But have them do it spontaneously rather than instructing them to discuss strategy with their group.
  5. When all oceans are stocked and groups are ready, the teacher should say “GO” and give students 30 seconds to fish. When the teachers says “STOP” all fishing poles must be put down.
  6. Students should fill in their data tables with the number of each species of fish that remains in the ocean, the number and value of their catch, and the income earned by each fisherperson in their group. Once their tables are filled out, they can eat their catch!
  7. As they fill in the tables, go around and adjust the number of fish in each ocean for the next round. Remember, there must be a food source and 2 fish of that species for them to reproduce and survive.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 three more times until there have been 4 years of fishing.
  9. You may want to have students work on the worksheet questions at this time. The first 3 questions are good places to have students think about their own ocean before comparing the results between groups. You can also save the worksheet for homework or for after a group discussion.
  10. Have each group report to the class the final number of fish remaining in their oceans after year 4. Some oceans may be completely empty of fish. Others may have figured out a way to fish sustainably so that there are many more fish than when they started. Discuss the various strategies the different groups used (or didn’t use) to manage their oceans.
  11. Introduce the concepts of overfishing, environmental collapse, the tragedy of the commons, sustainability, and resource management as they become relevant to the discussion.
  12. Discuss other common resources that suffer from a tragedy of the commons and think about strategies that we can use to manage those resources responsibly.