Mystery of El Niño

Age 11, group

45 minutes planning & preparing

20 minutes, presentation

20 minutes, question and answers


Explain El Niño and how it affects the seafood industry.


  • Access to a phone
  • phone book
  • library
  • treasure chest box
  • paper
  • pencils
  • scissors

Get Set

  • Review "Effects of Water Movements and Other Parameters on Fish" (see appendix).
  • Divide into three groups.
  • Have groups draw their assignments from the treasure chest.

Go catch

Begin the investigation based on the assignment drawn.

The questions that should be answered during the investigation include:

  • What is El Niño?
  • How does El Niño occur?
  • Why does it occur?
  • When does it occur?
  • Where does it occur?
  • Who does El Niño affect?
  • How does it affect the species the team is named after?

Report findings back to the group.


  • Place the treasure chest in a prime location for others to pull out a question to answer. A sign should be attached to the treasure chest that reads, "Can you answer the El Niño mystery?" The cafeteria would be a good location to place the chest.
  • Ask foodservice personnel to create an El Niño menu at Christmas and winter holiday time featuring California seafood.

El Niño Investigative Assignments

Investigator Lobster and Cucumber

Locate a fisherman or fisherwoman to interview or to speak to the group about El Niño.

The interview or presentation could be conducted by phone if necessary.

Each group member should write two questions for the interview.

Report to the large group the Lobster and Cucumber team's findings.

Investigator Rockfish and Swordfish

Locate a meteorologist to interview about El Niño.

Develop five questions about El Niño and similar currents of the past.

Report to the large group the Rockfish and Swordfish team's findings.

Investigator Squid and Prawn

Go to the library and write a scientific brief on El Niño by checking a variety of references, including the encyclopedia. If an encyclopedia is available on a CD-ROM, it is a fun way to explore.

Share the brief with the group.

California Seafood Council, PO Box 91540,		Santa Barbara, CA 93190 +1-805-569-8050