Gyotaku: Styrofoam Trays to Sting Rays! (NGSS)

Once upon a time, Japanese fishermen kept track of the species they caught by inking the fish and pressing it on a piece of mulberry paper.  Over time, the practice became an art form, and gyotaku, or fish prints, can be found on t-shirts, decorative pillows, framed art, and more.  I wanted my students to learn about fish native to Rhode Island while protecting the water they swim in, so we collected Styrofoam trays to do both.

Use CLEAN Styrofoam.
Cut away vertical parts.

Rhode Island now recycles Styrofoam, and in the land of fabulous restaurants and a Dunkin Donuts on nearly every corner, this is exciting news!  It's still better to get coffee in a reusable travel cup and bring containers with you to restaurants, but the Styrofoam no longer needs to go to the landfill. Styrofoam CAN NOT be put in the recycling bin, however.  Its fragile nature would lead to it being crushed and broken apart.  (This is the same reason, among others, that light bulbs get recycled separately from other recyclables.)  To properly recycle Styrofoam, food containers and packing Styrofoam must be kept separate, must be clean, and must be put in a CLEAR plastic bag.  Bags can be brought to RIRRC during normal business hours and you don't need to make an appointment.   They usually have clear plastic bags if you forgot yours.

To prepare Styrofoam for printing, cut away all upright edges so you have a clean, flat sheet without glue or embossing.  For images to work from, I laminated the below posters and cut out the fish, taping the name of the fish to the back to multi-purpose them as a fun i.d. game.  Each child chose a fish and drew it on newsprint.  These images were illustrated by Roberta Calore Sherwin and her site is here.  Check with your state's DEM for posters like these.  Massachusetts also has their own version.   (We also used pages from National Geographic for "exotic" species.)

To draw the fish, we looked at its overall shape: Is the main body more an oval or a football?  Are the fins rounded or angular?  How many fins are there, where are they, and how big are each?  What patterns do the scales have?  Where are the eyes and gills?  It becomes a scientific study.  What do the fish use their fins for?  How are pectoral fins different from dorsal fins?  Does the color of the fish help it camouflage or stand out?  (NGSS 4-LS1-1)

What do you think of a fish names "pumpkinseed" or "rainbow trout"?  Do people eat these fish?  Should their water be clean?  Does clean water affect their health or ours?  What causes water to become polluted?  What can be done to prevent pollution? (NGSS 4-ESS3-1)

Extension: Water Pollution Model

Using newsprint is important for the next step.  Since newsprint is thin, the paper can be placed over the Styrofoam sheet and traced with a sharp pencil.  It's okay of the newsprint rips, and this is now the stencil to transfer the drawing to the printing plate (Styrofoam sheet).  After everything has been traced, the newsprint can get recycled and the Styrofoam carving can get touched up with a sharp pencil.  The last step on the printing plate is to trace only the outline of the fish numerous times until the fish pops out separately.  This step should not be rushed, as the plate could snap.


To print the plate, we used water-based block-printing ink.  Using a quarter-sized amount, roll the ink out on a plastic tray to evenly coat your brayer (roller) until the ink looks like velvet and sounds like Velcro.  Then roll out in several directions on your printing plate to get an even coat.  Next (and very importantly!) clean your hands and work area.  With the plate ink-side up in a CLEAN area, carefully place a clean paper over your printing plate.  Holding the paper still with one hand, use the back of a spoon to rub the paper firmly, using circular motions.  (We used plastic mixing spoons with short handles, as they are easy to clean and short handles get the kids to rub harder and not play with the spoons as drum sticks.)  Still holding your paper in place, carefully peek under to be sure you got every corner of ink transferred to the paper.

What do you notice?  Can you see the details you carved?  If not, you may have used too much ink.  If it is too light, ink again and use a new paper.  Plate must be inked every time.  Did you notice your fish is now facing another way?  If you wanted words, you would have to carve the letters backwards!  Try different color inks and /or different colored paper.  You could print several on a sheet, even design a series of greeting cards!

.Students who demonstrate understanding can:
4-LS1-1.Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. [Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.]
The performance expectation above was developed using the following elements from the NRC document A Framework for K-12 Science Education:

Science and Engineering Practices

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.A: Structure and Function

Crosscutting Concepts

Systems and System Models

Connections to other DCIs in fourth grade: N/A
Articulation of DCIs across grade-levels: 
1.LS1.A ; 1.LS1.D ; 3.LS3.B ; MS.LS1.A
Common Core State Standards Connections: 
ELA/Literacy - 
W.4.1Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. (4-LS1-1)
Mathematics - 
4.G.A.3Recognize a line of symmetry for a two-dimensional figure as a line across the figure such that the figure can be folded across the line into matching parts. Identify line-symmetric figures and draw lines of symmetry. (4-LS1-1)
* The performance expectations marked with an asterisk integrate traditional science content with engineering through a Practice or Disciplinary Core Idea.

Students who demonstrate understanding can:
4-ESS3-1.Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. [Clarification Statement: Examples of renewable energy resources could include wind energy, water behind dams, and sunlight; non-renewable energy resources are fossil fuels and fissile materials. Examples of environmental effects could include loss of habitat due to dams, loss of habitat due to surface mining, and air pollution from burning of fossil fuels.]
4-ESS3-2.Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of solutions could include designing an earthquake resistant building and improving monitoring of volcanic activity.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.]
The performance expectations above were developed using the following elements from the NRC document A Framework for K-12 Science Education:

Science and Engineering Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

ESS3.A: Natural Resources

ESS3.B: Natural Hazards

ETS1.B: Designing Solutions to Engineering Problems

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and Effect

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  Connections to Engineering, Technology, and                      Applications of Science

Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology

  • Knowledge of relevant scientific concepts and research findings is important in engineering. (4-ESS3-1)

Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

Connections to other DCIs in fourth grade:
4.EST1.C (4-ESS3-2)
Articulation of DCIs across grade-levels:
K.ETS1.A (4-ESS3-2); 2.ETS1.B (4-ESS3-2); 2.ETS1.C (4-ESS3-2); 5.ESS3.C (4-ESS3-1); MS.PS3.D (4-ESS3-1); MS.ESS2.A (4-ESS3-1),(4-ESS3-2); MS.ESS3.A (4-ESS3-1); MS.ESS3.B (4-ESS3-2); MS.ESS3.C (4-ESS3-1); MS.ESS3.D (4-ESS3-1); MS.ETS1.B (4-ESS3-2) 
Common Core State Standards Connections:
ELA/Literacy - 
RI.4.1Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. (4-ESS3-2)
RI.4.9Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably. (4-ESS3-2)
W.4.7Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic. (4-ESS3-1)
W.4.8Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources. (4-ESS3-1)
W.4.9Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (4-ESS3-1)
Mathematics - 
MP.2Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (4-ESS3-1),(4-ESS3-2)
MP.4Model with mathematics. (4-ESS3-1),(4-ESS3-2)
4.OA.A.1Interpret a multiplication equation as a comparison, e.g., interpret 35 = 5 × 7 as a statement that 35 is 5 times as many as 7 and 7 times as many as 5. Represent verbal statements of multiplicative comparisons as multiplication equations. (4-ESS3-1),(4-ESS3-2)
* The performance expectations marked with an asterisk integrate traditional science content with engineering through a Practice or Disciplinary Core Idea.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! You really need to get this stuff published! What an excellent guide book for teachers everywhere!