Gyotaku Fish Print Activity for Kids

Today we are going to continue with our ocean science-themed activities for kids, with a fish printing activity based on the Japanese art form, gyotaku.

Gyotaku is wonderful because it incorporates both art and science into a combined learning experience. While making colorful prints, children observe the fish closely. In the process they learn about fish external anatomy, and also details useful in identification of individual species. See this index for an extensive list of examples of gyotaku fish prints by artist Joe McAuliffe.

fishprint- gyotaku

Gyotaku started in Japan as a way for fishermen to record their catch. Traditionally, gyotaku prints were made by applying inks to an actual fish and then pressing thin, but tough paper onto it. Today you can buy rubber or plastic replicas to use for printing. You can print on paper or cloth as you choose. The fish example above is printed on cloth.

You will need:

  • Fish or fish model
  • Block printing inks
  • Cloth or paper
  • Plates or trays for holding the ink
  • Brayer (hand roller for loading and applying ink)
  • Newspapers, old tablecloths or sheets to cover printing surface
  • Fish external anatomy illustrations, such as these fish resources at Exploring Nature Educational Resource (optional)

The process is relatively simple, but may require practice to achieve the desired results. If you are using actual fish, you will need to wash it with water to remove mucous/debris from the surface. Dry the fish. Place some block printing ink into the plates or trays, and ink up the brayer by rolling it through the ink. Apply the ink evenly to the fish. Now you may either press the paper onto the fish or press the fish onto the paper, as evenly as possible. Play around with the technique to see which way works best for you and how much ink is needed. Set the paper or cloth aside and allow to dry.

Traditionally not much else is added to the print, but you can use your imagination. This gyataku print includes seaweed.

Related:

There are loads of places to learn more about gyotaku on the Internet, just load up your favorite search engine and go.


Models to use for printing are also available on Amazon (photo is link).

If you live in the Phoenix area, the Desert Botanical Garden has “Fish Out of Water,” a gyotaku print exhibit running September 26, 2014 – January 4, 2015.

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This post is part of our ocean science series. Visit the landing page for links to all the related posts.

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Invertebrate of the Week: Jellyfish

Usually we have the Bug of the Week series on Wednesdays, but since we are going with an ocean science theme this week, let’s take a look at a group of marine invertebrates, the jellyfish, instead

 

jellyfish

Jellyfish live in oceans throughout the world. They can be a variety of shapes and colors.

jellyfish-parts

In general, jellyfish have a bowl-shaped main body called the bell. They also have slender tentacles that usually contain the stinging cells or nematocysts. The jellyfish in the photograph above have long, slender strand-like tentacles, but some species have only a tiny fringe of tentacles along the edge of the bell, or even no tentacles at all. The frilly, lighter colored parts are the oral arms, which help capture and move prey.

Jellyfish range in size from those having a bell about 2 cm in diameter to some that are over 40 cm in diameter.

You can see some of the diversity of sizes and shapes in this video:

One concern that marine scientists have, which was mentioned at the end of the video, is that as the numbers of predators of jellyfish rapidly decline that jellyfish will become much more abundant and have more frequent blooms (see for example, this infographic).

Jellyfish Craft Activity

Learn about jellyfish anatomy by making a jellyfish model.

 

jellyfish-craft

Gather:

  • Coffee filters
  • Markers
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Tape, glue and or stapler

Color the coffee filter with markers. It will represent the bell. If you have time, wetting the coffee filters will allow the marker inks to run and bleed together, making an interesting effect. If you wet them, allow the coffee filters to dry (on paper towels or wax paper to prevent the ink from staining other surfaces).

Fold the construction paper lengthwise. Have the children either cut strips to be the oral arms, or cut arm shapes as shown in the example, depending on their skill with scissors. Cut the yarn into 10 to 16 inch lengths, 6 or as many as desired.

Staple, glue or tape the oral arms into the center of the coffee filter “bell.” Tape, staple or glue the yarn to the edge of the coffee filter to form the tentacles. You may want to attach another piece of string or yarn to the top and center of the coffee filter for hanging.

If your children are familiar with a particular type of jellyfish, modify the pattern accordingly.

Related:

Are you going to a beach sometime this year? Are you interested in learning more about jellyfish? If so, you might want to look into the citizen science opportunity known as JellyWatch.

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This post is part of our ocean science series. Visit the landing page for links to all the related posts.

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Incredible Algae!

(Note: our usual Tuesday feature, Seed of the Week, will be back next week. Today we are going to visit the ocean. )

Algae and oceans go hand in hand, but what exactly are algae anyway? Are they plants? What are seaweeds and are they related to algae?

seaweed(Public domain photograph of seaweeds by Axel Kuhlmann)

Although algae may be large and appear plant-like, they are actually protists (belong to the Kingdom Protista). They have chlorophyll like plants so they can make their own food from the energy of sunlight, but they lack common plant structures like roots or leaves. Seaweeds, like that shown in the foreground of photograph above, are large forms of algae, also called “macroalgae.” The small forms that float around in the water are often called “microalgae” or “phytoplankton.”

You may be wondering why anyone would care about algae. Turns out, algae are important in a lot of ways. First of all, algae are the basis for aquatic food chains in both seawater and freshwater. They are also used for food, as fertilizer, and as a source of products such as agar and carrageenan. Algae are being studied as a potential source of biofuel. Let’s not forget, they make a significant amount of oxygen. In fact, it is not too farfetched to think that algae might be the most important organisms on the planet!

Activities for kids:

1. Investigate seawater under a microscope

If you have access to a microscope, obtain a sample of seawater (or pondwater) and take a look at what is in it. Look for green, blue-green or even brown or red organisms that are algae. Examining samples under a microscope is fun because it often leads to surprises.

2. Make an algal collection

You can make a collection of pieces of algae or seaweed you find at the beach, similar to the way you make a plant collection. Some of them can have beautiful shapes and colors.

640px-Adolphe_Millot_algues(Illustration Adolphe Millot algues public domain from Wikimedia)

Gather pieces of algae on the beach and keep it moist in seawater. Once you are home, float the seaweed/algae onto a piece of heavy paper. Press the paper between layers of felt to remove the water and allow it to dry. The Hawaii Botany Department has step-by-step instructions on how to make an algal herbarium.

 

example-image(Figure 3 – Seaweeds are pressed on herbarium sheets for further study and repository in botanical Herbaria. The species that Dr. Suzanne Fredericq is pressing was found at about 66 m depth (200 ft) in the West Flower Garden Banks, and represents a new record for the Gulf of Mexico. -From NOAA)

If you don’t want to disturb nature, which is a good idea, you can take close up photographs of what you find instead. You can share what you discover via blogs, websites or photo streams.

Once you have a collection, visit some of these websites to help you identify what you have. Seaweeds are not too easy to identify, but you might at least figure out which group your sample belongs to.

Biomara has an extensive booklet of activities/lessons about algae to download (30.3 MB). The link for the “entire teaching resource” is right above the “Information for Teachers” bold header. It contains large color photographs of many common “macroalgae.”

Who knows where studying algae might lead you. Perhaps you will be inspired to become a marine botanist, like Sylvia Earle (previous post).

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This post is part of our ocean science series. Visit the landing page for links to all the related posts.

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