Over in the Ocean

As summer approaches, many families will be going to the ocean on vacation, so I’ll be featuring ocean-themed books for the next 3 weeks. This week’s lesson plan is based on the book Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef.  Teachers can do this activity in the classroom, and parents can do it at home.

Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef is based on the familiar song “Over in the Meadow.” It features coral reef animals and their babies. In this art activity, students identify reef animals and replicate one of the book’s illustrations by creating a clownfish out of clay. Science concepts are reinforced through the questions and discussion based on the book.

Suggested grade level: K-2
Common Core and Science Standards are listed at the bottom of this page.


  • Picture book: Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef
  • Orange, white and black Model Magic Clay, also called “Fusion” by Crayola, will harden
  • Netting from a bag of oranges or onions
  • Wiggle eyes
  • Craft sticks
  • Butcher paper drawing of a colorful anemone


  1. Engage students by asking: Have you ever seen a coral reef? Have them look at the book’s cover and ask: “What do you think lives on a coral reef?”
  2. Read aloud Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef. Have children interact with book by showing with their fingers the number of babies shown on each double-page spread and singing along to the tune “Over in the Meadow.”
  3. When finished, go back through the book page-by-page having students look closely at the illustrations. Ask them to identify several characteristics of each animal, such as the eight arms of the octopus, stripes on the orange clownfish, and teeth on the parrotfish. Ask: “Do the babies look exactly the parents?” Discuss the diversity of life in the ocean.
  4. Ask: “How do you think the illustrator, Jeanette Canyon, made these beautiful illustrations?” Show Jeanette’s photo from the back of the book and explain her process of using polymer clay. Point out that she used netting to make the scales of the clownfish. (You can learn more about Jeanette’s art on her web site and view a movie showing how she uses polymer clay.)
  5. Have students make their own clownfish using the following procedure: Form a fish shape with orange clay. Roll out thin pieces of white clay and press into front of fish shape and toward the back. Roll out even thinner pieces of black clay and line that along the white strips. Add a wiggle eye in the front. Press netting onto the fish to make the scales. Use craft sticks to shape a mouth, fins and a tail.
  6. Have children place their fish on the butcher paper anemone for display.

 Common_clownfish_curves_dnsmpl-150x150Common Core ELA Standards
~ Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7)
Science Standards
~ From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (K-LS1, 1-LS-1, 3-LS1)
~ Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits (1-LS3)


subscribe     Blog by Carol Malnor I love making connections: kids and nature, science and reading, fun and learning. I discovered the joy of connecting Dawn Publications' books with kids when I was a classroom teacher. Dawn's books were easy to incorporate into my lessons and the kids loved them. I used picture books with students of all ages, from primary school all the way up through 9th grade. Over the years, my relationship with Dawn changed and developed, and I authored Dawn’s Teacher’s Guides as well as writing books for children 4-14 years old. ARTICLE How to Use Creative Nonfiction Picture Books in Support of Common Core and Science ACTIVITIES Dawn Publications STANDARDS Common Core State Standards Next Generation Science Standards National Science Teachers Association Picture Perfect Science   OTHER FAVORITES Dawn Publications Children and Nature Network
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