Facts and Fishes: Focus Area 3 Science, Yr 7

Myth Busting – Memory and Innovation

In this lesson/s, students will better understand how fishes can be viewed as smart by looking at specific case studies, including; rainbow fish, salmonids and the frillfin goby. Students will read about fishes and their exceptional memories and consider to what extent fishes are able to use tools.

Time and Structure

This Focus Area could take anywhere between 1-2 lessons or longer.
The lesson has been designed to be flexible, so that teachers may choose to alter or omit tasks to suit the needs of their students.


Mixed ability class with extension tasks.

Unit Focus

Question  whether our treatment of fishes reflects what we know about them.
Consider  the different views on this issue and decide for yourself where you stand.
Discuss  with your friends, family, classmates and teachers. Debating complex issues is healthy and helpful.

Voiceless Resources 

Other Resources

Inquiry Questions

  • Can fishes remember things?
  • To what extent can fishes create and use tools?
  • Should fishes be treated like us?

Suggested Learning Activities


Problem Solving Fishes – Mind Mapping Ideas 

Ask students to form groups of three. They will have 10-15 minutes to complete the mind map by brainstorming their ideas on the following points:

  • In which sorts of situations might fishes require the use of tools?
  • What sorts of things, or ways to use parts of the body, could be considered a tool?
  • How do fishes learn to use tools?

Refer to the Problem Solving Fishes Template which accompanies this focus area – could be printed off per student, or one per group to save paper.


Ask students to remain in the groups of three to read Pages 7-8 in The Watery World of Fishes.  

If comfortable, students are encouraged to read aloud to one another – stopping where required to check definitions of words in the Glossary.

Students then select one of the species (from the list below) and create a fact file. Refer to the Fishes Fact File Template.

  • Rainbowfish
  • Frillfin goby
  • Salmonids
  • Tuskfish
  • Cleaner wrasse
  • Tigerfish
  • Sunfish

  Fact File Requirements:  

  • Habitat – where do I live and what’s my lifestyle like?
  • Classification – including my scientific name.
  • Size and appearance – including my distinguishing features.
  • Unique characteristics – can you link these to memory or innovation?


Asking the difficult questions

All Levels Question 

  • Human beings have not always viewed fishes as intelligent animals. However, as our knowledge about them grows, should we reassess how we treat them and speak about them?

Remind students about the need to be open minded and respectful in these sorts of discussions. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion and we should respect one another’s views, even if we don’t agree with them.

Extension Questions

  1. As fishes have memory and the ability to be creative in their pursuit of food, grooming, looking after their young, problem-solving, finding mates, and are self-aware, should we consider giving personhood to fishes?
  2. What is personhood?
  3. Watch the Voiceless video – Animals: Property or Persons?
  4. Ask students to spend 5 minutes discussing their thoughts and reactions to the video in groups of three.
  5. Finally, discuss as a whole class – taking the time to write notes on the board (this could be in the form of two columns: ‘Positives’ and ‘Needs Further Consideration’.)

Watching the video twice is recommended. During the second viewing instruct students to make notes to assist their understanding. Encourage students to think about the variety of fishes/mammals under the sea – perhaps making some distinctions between whales and rainbow fish for instance. Aim to respond to student opinions and ideas with a fair and open mind. Some students may be able to consider the implications on a society if such laws were implemented. 


Tweet it!

It is often very difficult to write succinctly, especially when students have so much to say on topics which spark interest or are controversial.

Ask students to write a message which seeks to educate others on the capabilities of fishes – in particular, their memory and innovative ways.

Messages must be no more than 280 characters if typing, or less than 50 words handwritten.


Ask students to write a 150-200 word reflection using the Harvard Visible Thinking Routine of: ‘I Used to Think…But Now, I Think….’ Students should consider their thoughts and opinions regarding the memory and innovation of fishes prior to this lesson and how their thinking has changed as a result of new discoveries.

Sentence starters: 

I used to think…
Now, I think…


If you and your students enjoyed these activities, then please continue to work through the subsequent focus areas within the unit. Up next, Myth Busting – Social Schooling. 

For more information on personhood – see our specialised APE Legal Personhood, complete with up-to-date resources and lesson plans on this topic.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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