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Ted's teaching tips

It's beautiful, but what is it? Pictures such as this, out of context, are a real mystery. The natural world is full of bright colours, but why? Do children know anything about the fishy world, stretching over most of the globe and much older than us?

Fish Fish play a part in our lives (pets, food), but what are their characteristics (aquatic, mainly egg-laying, tapered ends for cutting smoothly through water, strong fins, cold-blooded, gills)? What is this fish (a wrasse, long and thin, mainly found in warm waters, bright coloured ones often near coral reefs)? Why do we eat fish (source of protein, polyunsaturated fats that can reduce blood-clotting)? How old are fish as a species (ancient inhabitants of the planet from about 450 million years ago, compared with fewer than one million years for humans' ancestors)?

Senses How does a fish eye work (usually spherical lens, nerves send information to the brain; most see colour, although deep sea fish may not)? What about other senses (often well-developed sense of smell and taste; catfish, for example, have poor vision and use their "whiskers" to find food; sensitive to sound waves, hearing organs located behind eyes, so make noises to communicate with each other and can detect anglers moving on a river bank; probably feel pain, although some believe they do not)?

Natural colour What is the purpose of colour in fish (camouflage, so brght-coloured fish near coral; attract a mate; signal aggression, as when male sticklebacks show the bright red part of their body to an opponent)? Draw some real fish shapes and paint in authentic colours, as in a school of tropical fish. Fish have been shown in art throughout the centuries, ever since Egyptian and classical times, so make a brightly coloured fish the centrepiece of a design.

Writing Describe a trip where you try scuba diving for the first time and discover the remarkable underwater world of coral reefs (which are living entities), colourful fish and other marine life. What impact does the experience of this very different environment make on you?

TALKING POINTS

Fish are fascinating, but is there any point to fishing as a sport?

For

Fishing is a restful pastime that takes you into beautiful countryside. It is popular with people who live in noisy cities or work in factories. Pitting your wits against artful fish is a challenge, and it is not a cruel sport, as most fish are returned to the water.

Against

It is not a sport, as anglers are motionless. They may find it pleasant, but it's not much fun for the fish. There is little point in catching a beautiful fish only to throw it back, and not every angler is environmentally conscious. If hunting gets banned, why not fishing?

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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