Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming

Book Info

Grade Level
Elementary School
STEM Concepts
Engineering, Engineering Design Process, Underwater Engineering, Trial and Error, Oceanography

Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr! That’s the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that’s because he hasn’t yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?”—and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Source: Macmillan 


Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons

These questions, prompts, and short activities provide quick ways to inspire interest and explore the STEAM concepts related to the book. Idea Sparks and Mini lessons can also be used for differentiation and to foster new ideas of your own.

Download Lesson Plan.

Underwater Vehicle

In the book Papa’s Mechanical Fish, Papa is on a mission to create a machine that can take him underwater. In this activity, students will research and develop their own plan for an underwater vehicle. After researching aquatic life and the biology that helps creatures live underwater, students will draw their own prototype and write a short story about an adventure that they will have using their machine.

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A Mechanical Bird

In this lesson, students will research birds and their different features. Students will then draw a diagram of how they would build a mechanical bird.

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Animals as Inspiration

In this lesson, students will develop questions about human problems that can be solved using some of the features of animals. They will then design and create an object or tool that mimics an animal’s features utilizing the Engineering Design Cycle.

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About the Author

Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming is the author of many picture and young adult books, including Boxes for Katje, Gator Gumbo, and The Great and Only Barnum, a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. She lives in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Other books by Candace include The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School and Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!.

Learn more at

Source: Macmillan