Spring Lesson Plan #2: Grade 8 to 12 (Sustainable Seafood)



In this lesson students are encouraged to explore our local British Columbia waters and identify native aquatic species that we commonly consume, and critically deduce if the animals that we are catching, and how we are catching them, are sustainable.  Students will get the opportunity to identify common seafood dishes by exploring the gallery and finding the animals based off the description given in the worksheet.  Once all are found, students will decide if the harvesting method of these animals was sustainable or not, and create a visual of ecosystems effected by unsustainable practices.

Students should have some previous knowledge of the difference between fishing and farming techniques when it comes to harvesting seafood. As well, reviewing the impacts that habitat damage, the loss of animals in an ecosystem, and over-fishing can have on the ecosystem and those living within that environment. Please see the section "Helpful Information" in the PDF for details of pre-teaching material.

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify local marine life that we commonly consume
  2. Examine if how we are catching our seafood is sustainable or not
  3. Explain the effects that unsustainable harvesting methods have on the ecosystem\

Photo shared to social media should use the tags @ vanaqua, @OceanWise and #OceanWiseEducation. We love to see what the students discover in the galleries, so be sure to share your adventure with us. 


1) Review in class (15 min). Before arriving at the aquarium, review types of fishing and farming methods. A helpful source that includes photos is: Fishing and Farming Methods

2) Ingredient Hunt (20-30 min). Have students (equipped with their worksheets included in the attached PDF) explore the Treasures of the B.C. Coast and the Pacific Canada Pavilion in search for animals that will make up the main ingredient on the meals provided in the worksheet. Students will have to look at the description given, and decide which animal fits the role for that meals main ingredient, and record which exhibit they found the animal.

3) Ocean Wise Stamp of Approval (5-10 min). After step one, students will have to decide if the main ingredient on each meal given was harvested sustainably or unsustainably based on the method in which they were fished.

4) Impacts Illustration (15-20 min). Students will choose one of the animals that they deemed harvested unsustainably and illustrate the impact that this fishing method can have on the ecosystem in the enclosure the student found the main ingredient animal in.

Pro Tips:

  • Students should have some previous knowledge of the difference between fishing and farming techniques when it comes to harvesting seafood. As well, reviewing the impacts that habitat damage, the loss of animals in an ecosystem, and overfishing can have on the ecosystem and those living within that environment
  • To avoid too many students trying to look at one exhibit/gallery at the same time, have different groups start at different geographic zones within the Aquarium (REMEMBER: Students under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult at all times, including in the 4D theatre)
  • This activity works best as a review of scientific concepts explored in class prior to a Vancouver Aquarium visit. Students should be familiar with the concepts of the needs of living things, and the importance of adaptations in aiding survival.
  • If you choose to have students completing activity sheets, then provide them with clipboards so they have a hard surface on which to draw and/or write.
  • Make this activity your own. Have the students write an expose, blog post or journal entry about the fish they have discovered. Engineer new solutions for unsustainable fishing practices. Design a community awareness campaign based on what they have learned. The context of this assignment can be modified and expanded based on the interests of your students.
  • Please ensure cameras are used carefully around animal habitats. Use camera straps to avoid dropping devices into the water/habitats. When photographing in dark galleries, avoid use of the camera flash to avoid reflection and ensure good quality results. Consider taking photos on an angle (as opposed to directly facing glass habitats) even in well-lit galleries

Learning Objectives

Big Ideas

  • The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them.
  • Interconnected systems sustain healthy ecosystems.
  • Ecosystem stability is an important result of sustainability
  • Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems.
  • Humans can play a role in conservation and restoration of ecosystems.
  • Local environments contain diverse ecosystems with many roles and relationships.
  • Science informs our decisions and impacts our daily lives.
  • Science helps explain how natural changes and human choices affect global systems.
  • Human actions affect the quality of water and its ability to sustain life.
  • Sustainable land use and food production will meet the needs of a growing population
  • Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community, and Earth.

Core Competencies

  • Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal interest
  • Make observations aimed at identifying their own questions about the natural world
  • Identify a question to answer or a problem to solve through scientific inquiry
  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Use scientific understandings to identify relationships and draw conclusions
  • Consider social, ethical, and environmental implications of the findings from their own and others’ investigations
  • Exercise a healthy, informed skepticism and use scientific knowledge and findings from their own investigations to evaluate claims in secondary sources
  • Communicate ideas, findings, and solutions to problems, using scientific language, representations, and digital technologies as appropriate


  • living things respire, grow, take in nutrients, produce waste, respond to stimuli, and reproduce; there is debate as to whether or not to classify viruses as living things
  • micro-organisms are key to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decomposers
  • viruses and bacteria can cause disease and can also be used in industry and agriculture
  • a systems approach to sustainability sees all matter and energy as interconnected and existing in dynamic equilibrium
  • matter cycles within biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems

Continue to Spring Lesson Plan #3: Grade 8 to 12 (Aquarium Photo Journalism) »