Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students use the interactive simulation Build-A-Trout to explore a trout’s organs and understand how they work in relation to each other. Working in pairs or small groups, students will build a trout, and learn about the role of each organ system. Case studies challenge students to identify organ systems related to different activities within the trout’s body.


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Work collaboratively to identify and learn about a trout’s anatomy
  2. Build a trout using an interactive simulation, and discover how the organ systems work together.
  3. Identify organ systems associated with the different activity within a trout’s body.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Small dry erase boards for each pair or small group, or sheets of paper


This lesson plan features the simulation Build-A-Trout developed by our partner,  Spongelab Interactive. This playful interactive challenges students to build a trout by dragging and dropping its organs to the correct place. The interactive also challenges students to review case studies and then identify organ systems associated to activity in a trout’s body.

Preview and play Build-A-Trout to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

For more information about using interactive simulations effectively in the classroom, review our Educator’s Guide to Teaching with Digital Interactive Models and Teaching Strategies for Interactive Simulations.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Fish, Gills, Underwater World, Sharks, Six Kingdoms

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Prompt students to share what they know about fish and their anatomy.
  2. After everyone shares their ideas, play the BrainPOP movie Fish on the whiteboard or other display.  
  3. Divide the class into pair or small groups and project the Build-A-Trout interactive on the whiteboard. Tell them that a trout is a kind of fish. Explain that that today they will work together to build a trout from its organs up. After they assemble the organs, they will read case studies describing functions in a trout’s body, and identify the organ system associated to that function.  
  4. Read, or invite a volunteer to read, the information about the trout on the left side of the screen. Then choose, but do NOT click, one of the organs listed in the the tray on the right. Now challenge pairs or teams to come up with a definition for that organ and write it on paper or a small dry erase board. On your signal, instruct each team or pair to hold up their definitions.
  5. Now click the organ and read the definition that displays on the left side of the screen. Compare the definition to each pair/team’s definition and ward points to teams based on the accuracy of their definitions (e.g., 3 points for a correct and highly detailed definition, 2 points for a correct definition that may be less detailed; 1 point for a partially correct definition, and 0 for an incorrect definition). For more in-depth game play, display all the responses in the front of the room and have the class analyze them together. They can rank the responses in the same way and a volunteer can keep track of each team’s points on the board
  6. After analyzing answers, have pairs/teams work at their own computers or devices to click the organ and drag it to the correct position on the screen.Model how they can use the arrows to the left of the illustration to move up and down or the plus/minus to zoom in and out.
  7. Repeat the process of defining, comparing definitions, ranking, and dragging/dropping each organ until the trout is completely assembled.
  8. After teams/partners assemble their trout, challenge them to solve the case studies. Model the first one by clicking the Case Studies link on the top right side of the screen. Select the first case study: Circulation. Read, or have a volunteer read, the case study that displays on the left side. Then show them how to answer the question the case study presents by clicking on the correct organ on the right side.
  9. Have students work with their partner or team to complete the other case studies. Encourage them to discuss each case, and consider what they know, before clicking the organ. Circulate as students work, listening in on their discussions and strategies, providing support as needed.
  10. Bring the class together to reflect on the interactive. Have them share what new information they learned. You can return to the discussion from the beginning to assess what they’ve learned.

Extension Activities:

Invite students to further explore the topic of fish by watching the following BrainPOP movies: Fish, Gills, Underwater World, Sharks, Six Kingdoms