3D Fish Sculptures


One of my many goals as a teacher is to enkindle a knowledge and passion for environmental protection. Children are the future and ours truly does depend on them. This lesson has been the most influential one that I have taught. After teaching this lesson, posters about plastic in the ocean began popping up around school, my fourth graders started an Anti Ocean-Pollution Club, made a petition to ban plastics from our cafeteria and had an article written about their efforts in the newspaper! I hope your students enjoy this as much as mine!


I begin class by playing the trailer for the movie “Plastic Ocean“. The reactions on my students’ faces showed me that they already care and are shocked by what they see. The trailer shows piles of plastic in and along the ocean. It also shows how animals and people are effected by this pollution. We discuss different ideas about what we can do to lessen the amounts of plastic we can use and talk about how as artists we can use our artwork to spread awareness and remind people of the beauty and importance of these creatures that are in need of our protection.

This is why we are making fish! Colorful, beautiful little sea creatures that will be hung on the ceilings throughout our school. When discussing the process of this project, a student suggested that we use plastic bags to stuff our fish, an idea that I love! I sent an all-staff email and asked for used grocery bags and recieved hundreds. It only took a few minutes for my students to shred the bags and they make great stuffing. Just think, these bags fed our fish sculptures instead of real ones in the ocean! Oh the irony…


What you need:

Let’s get started!

After watching the trailer and having our discussion we begin by choosing a fish. I have laid out dozens of pictures of colorful tropical fish and a couple jellies and sea turtles.

Step One:

I let everyone chose whichever picture they like. Every student gets two pieces of large drawing paper. They draw their sea creature nice and big on their paper. I am sure to circulate and aid those who are struggling. Once drawn I ask them to add as many details as they can find!


Step Two:

Grab a second piece of paper and join it with the one with their drawing on it. Staple the four corners of the two papers-this helps kids keep their papers together while cutting. Cut out the fish, making sure to cut both pieces.

Step Three:

Once cut, lay the two fish on the table like they are about to smooch, (Cue giggling and “yuck’s… hah!). This makes it so that they don’t accidentally draw their details on the wrong side of their fish! Now fill the other fish with details.


Step Four:

Staple all the way around the two halves of your fish. For this part I borrow as many staplers as I can find and show how to staple around the edge leaving about a half inch border. It is important to leave a 3-4″ long hole for stuffing.

Step Five:

Once completely detailed, it is time to paint! I demonstrate how to blend from one color to another by either feathering the paint on or mixing while the colors are still wet. Remember to paint the biggest color first and then add details once the base has dried. If there are tiny details, you may use a sharpie to add them!


Step Six: 

Stuff your fish! Use a pencil or ruler to push shredded plastic bags into the farthest corners until your fish is nice and fat, and staple the hole shut.


Have fun!

Student Examples: