Submitted by: Rachel Zindler

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP resources to gain familiarity with the phylum of cnidarians. Students will research and communicate scientific information orally, in writing, and through visual art, and work cooperatively to complete creative projects.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Gain familiarity with the phylum of cnidarians.
  2. Research and communicate scientific information orally, in writing, and through visual art.
  3. Work cooperatively to complete creative projects.


  • Print Vocabulary Sheet (enough for the whole class)
  • Research notebooks or folders for students to take on field trips and keep track of their notes
  • A variety of supplies for creating models of cnidarians (clay, craft paper, paint, cotton balls, cellophane, ribbons, etc.)
  • Supplies for creating backgrounds of cnidarian habitats (large roll of craft paper, paint, paintbrushes, blue or silver glitter, etc.)
  • Computer(s)
  • Access to BrainPOP
  • Interactive Whiteboard (optional)


jellyfish; phylum; invertebrate; aquatic; radial symmetry; sessile; nematocyst; prey; stun; budding; anemone; coral; hydra; man-of-war; organism; tentacles; phylum; medusa; polyp; expel; sexual reproduction; asexual reproduction; fertilize


Log on to BrainPOP and preview the Cnidarians movie and read all related features. Print out suggested materials and set up computer and interactive whiteboard if you plan to use one. Collect supplies for art projects. Collect additional books for research on specific cnidarians. Research and schedule a trip to a local aquarium if possible.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Screen the movie. Remember that you can turn on the closed captions to support students who learn best when reading (click the button marked "cc" at the bottom right of the movie window). Also, remember to pause at various points for discussion. These are good opportunities to prompt students to turn and talk or stop and jot about new concepts as they arise.
  2. Tell students that you will be screening the Cnidarians movie for them to find out about these mysterious creatures. The first time they will just listen and watch. The second time they will take notes.
  3. Screen the movie a second time. Ask students to take notes as they listen and watch. You can differentiate by providing some students with the Vocabulary Sheet ahead of time, which they should fill in as the movie unfolds, while others should structure and record their notes as they see fit.
  4. After the movie is complete, hand out the Vocabulary Sheet to the remainder of students. Those who used it during the movie should use the extra time to complete their definitions (and may need to view the movie a third time for support), while others should work alone or with partners to fill in the definitions from memory, putting them in their own words.
  5. Tell your students that you will be studying these aquatic creatures and that ultimately they will create a classroom aquarium to share what they learn with the school community.
  6. Take a field trip to a local aquarium to visit the cnidarians exhibit and other sections of the aquarium. Assign students to document the visit with photographs, sketches and notes in their notebooks (this is another good opportunity for differentiation: those who have difficulty taking notes can be the class photographers while visual learners may do best by drawing what they see). All students should pay careful attention to the way information is presented to visitors. How are the exhibits designed and labeled? Are there images that accompany the text with certain exhibits? Why? How to they add to each display? (If you don’t have access to a local aquarium students can spend time exploring websites for well known aquariums such as the New England Aquarium or the Georgia Aquarium.)
  7. Divide your class into 5 work groups and tell them that over the next week or two they will each create a section of the Cnidarians’ Aquarium. Each group will research and create an exhibit on one of the following cnidarians: jellyfish, coral, anemone, hydra, and man-of-war. (You may want to design the groups yourself and assign topics, or create groups based on student interest).
  8. The final exhibit for each group will include a “fish tank” (a 3-D mural depicting the creatures and their habitat) accompanied by related information, including 1) the life cycle, 2) at least one labeled diagram 3) a section about conservation and 4) "fun facts" about the creature.
  9. To get started, direct your students to the Related Reading feature at where they will find at least one piece of information about their cnidarians. From there, students should continue to research using books from the library and selected websites. They can also go back to their notes from the movie as a resource.
  10. Devote class time to designing and creating the models of the sea creatures. Students may want to bring in supplies from home or choose from the materials provided in class to create large-scale reproductions of specific cnidarians.
  11. Another day can be devoted to painting habitats for their "fish tanks". Students can add collage elements such as glitter to show sparkling water, or long strands of green ribbon for sea grass, etc.
  12. After students have researched the assigned topics related to their cnidarians, they should submit rough drafts to you for editing.
  13. Finally, students should spend time designing signage for their exhibits. This is where they can get really creative. Some students may want to include activities like quizzes or riddles in their exhibits. Others may want to make poster-size diagrams of their animals. Some groups may want to focus more on conservation and explain how their visitors can help protect their species of cnidarians.
  14. Spend time preparing to open the aquarium to the school community. Students should take turns presenting their exhibits to the other groups in order to practice their tour guide skills.
  15. Finally, open your school’s Cnidarian Aquarium! Students can make Grand Opening posters and even sell tickets to friends and family to raise money for an organization that protects saltwater habitats (or just make it a fun free event!).
  16. Project the title of the movie "Cnidarians" on the board or on the interactive whiteboard. Ask if anyone has ever heard of the word before? Ask students to try to pronounce the word. What do they think it means? This should be a fun activity as most students will be unfamiliar with the pronunciation and meaning of the cnidarians. You may even want to keep track of students ideas on the Brainstorming Web from the Graphic Organizers on the BrainPOP Educators website (if you have an interactive whiteboard you can project the organizer and write or type directly onto it).

Extension Activities:

As a form of assessment, students can take the online or printed Quiz before and/or after the study.