“Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!” Who hasn’t heard those words or doesn’t love watching the adventure of a certain orange clown fish and forgetful blue damsel, Dora, from Finding Nemo?

Those are the words I used this week to introduce my students to our science chapter on fish. To help them memorize the different parts, we are creating paper bag fish. Kinesthetic learners benefit from drawing and labeling the parts, while my more squeamish students appreciate that we are not doing a real dissection. Here’s how to do this project with your class.

Fish Diagramming with Paper Bags


For this project each student receives a paper grocery bag and is instructed to cut out the bottom and the two narrow sides. I then give them simple coloring pages with fish pictures that I found on the Internet. With these as their guide, the students use pencils to draw the fish of their choice diagonally on the paper bags (so the fish will be larger than if drawn from left to right). Once I approve the pencil drawings, the students go over their lines with black marker. 

Fish Diagramming with Paper Bags


Next, we fold the paper bags and staple them so that the “bad” side is facing inward. This enables the students to cut out their patterns and later match them together identically. 

Paper Bag Fish Project


Once both sides are cut out, we carefully remove the staples and turn the two fish shapes so that they face each other nose to nose. Now comes the hard part. The students must draw the fish again on the second side and go over their pencil sketch with black marker. 


Crayons are best for coloring the fish because the wax creates deep colors and a lovely shine. 

Paper Bag Fish


Once both sides are colored, the students staple them together while stuffing them with shredded newspaper. 

Group of Paper Bag Fish Project


As we progress through the chapter in our science book, I will have the students create tags and label the parts on one side of the fish. If your students are ready for an even bigger challenge, you can have them draw the outside of the fish on one side and the inside of the fish on the other; then have them label the parts.