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Nico's Octopus Free Unit Study and Lapbook

Nico's Octopus

Author: Caroline Pitcher

Illustrator: Nilesh Mistry

ISBN 1566564832

Summary: Nico finds a little octopus in a fisherman’s net and rescues it, bringing it home with him. But will an octopus make a good pet?


Unit Study prepared by Michelle Light
Lapbook Component by Ami Brainerd


Social Studies
Greece Tab Book
Greek Alphabet (Famous Letters)
Menu Pocketbook (to place your student's world menu)
cut out book as one piece; fold on solid black line; fold dotted line up (under cover) to form a pocket; glue both sides of the pocket down using the glue sparingly

Language Arts
Vocabulary Pocket
Singular and Plural Words (-es)
Prefix: OCT-
Comprehension/Listing Questions
cut out all the minit books and fold in half; let your student write her answers inside; cut out large book as one piece and fold in half on the black line; paste books in the cover by DIRECTLY pasting them above/below each other (it is suppose to be a tight squeeze!)

What Color Would You Be?
Octopus Senses
Octopus Defense Layer Book
Octopus Anatomy Matchbooks
Octopus Anatomy Accordion Book with Pocket
Invertebrates Tab Book (have your student draw a big X through the backbone to help him remember that invertebrates are lacking a backbone)
Octopus Report Form with Pocket (two forms are provided; one with prompts and one without)
Octopus Arm Shape Book

8's Facts

Bible Verses Tri-fold

Jazz up your lapbook!  This file includes some clip-art, a coloring page (to be used for a cover if you like), and full color photos of octopuses




Geography -- Greece
Greece is located in Europe, specifically Southern Europe--just east of Italy.   It consists of the mainland and several islands scattered across the Aegean and Adriatic Seas.  Today it is part of the European Community (EC).  Help your student locate Greece, the Aegean Sea, and the Adriatic Sea on a map or globe.  Create a story disk and place on Greece.


Map of Greece and coloring activity

Map of Greece with questions

Flag of Greece coloring page

Greek culture - its myths, theater, architecture, and sports - has influenced and inspired people for centuries.  Greece was regarded as the cradle of western civilization and was the birthplace of democracy, western philosophy, western literature, and political science, We see the evidence of ancient Greece around us every day – the names of our present day planets and constellations come from Greek Mythology (gods). The Olympic games held every four years; became famous in Greece. Much of our modern day architecture of our houses, churches, and public buildings come from Greek architecture.  More information on Greece.


Greek/Latin Alphabet

Like us, the Greeks also used an alphabet. Around the 10th century BC, the Greeks borrowed and adapted the Phoenician Alphabet to create a writing system for their own language. The Greek alphabet evolved over several centuries, and by the 5th century BC it used 24 letters - 17 consonants and 7 vowels. This alphabet turned out to work quite well. It was the source for the Latin alphabet (developed by the Romans) that we use today.   We still often see this alphabet around. Sororities use the letters and names. Mathematics uses some of the letters. At the time of Jesus and Paul most of the world spoke Greek.  The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek. The New Testament was written in Greek.  More Information


Social Studies - Relationships- Mother
The old man said that the Octopus was a good mother. Why? What things did she do?  What sort of things does your mom do to take care of you? Do you think Nico has a good relationship with his parents? Why or why not?


Social Studies -- Relationships with Animals:  Nico often talks to the octopus? Can you recall some of the things he says to it?

Why do you think Nico talks to it?  Do you think the octopus could understand him?

Do you ever talk to your pets or animals? Do you think they understand you?

Culture:  Food
Do you eat octopus?  Does that seem odd to you?
What’s weird about that?  Wherever you are from, you are use to eating different foods.  What may be normal and good to you may be a little strange to someone else.  Let’s look at what people from different parts of the world eat. 
If the world had a restaurant, what would be on the menu?
You might find that your Australian hamburger comes with pickled beets and a scrambled egg. Did you want fries with that? If your fries come from Holland, they are fried twice and served with mayonnaise and vinegar. But instead you could order fried green tomatoes as a side; they come from the southern United States. Here is something you'd may like to try, little pieces of fish and rice wrapped in seaweed.  It’s sushi from Japan. 
Do you like spice?  From Mexico? They have the hottest pepper in the world.  They are called habanero (ah-bahn-air-o) peppers.  And traveling with it is nopales (no-pahl-ace).  Can you guess what that is?  It’s prickly pear cactus! 
Let’s see what seafood has been caught today?  We have shark from Iceland, octopus from Greece.  Both can be grilled or stewed.  And here’s frog legs, a special dish from France.
Maybe you want soup?  There are two soups on the menu--  China has owl soup and Russia their borscht (beet soup).
So many choices.  You could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the U.S. with Thai tea and yak butter...BUT the roasted ants from Columbia might be the better choice.
Wait, you could have turtle eggs from Nicaragua or even smoked bats from Indonesia.  How will you ever decide? 

If your student is interested in this world menu (contributed by Lisa H.), then you may want to take the time to let him create his own fun menu!  Don't forget the octopus!   You may also want to do a search in your phone book to see what kinds of ethnic foods are available in your area.  Take your family out for something new (be adventuresome!). 


Language Arts -Vocabulary:  

brim, alien, swelled, escape, crept, clever, chute, mottled, ill, lair, waded, peered, nervous, spiral, spangled.
Prepared Vocabulary Crossword Puzzle


Language Arts: List making and Comprehension
Discuss the following questions with your student (or give them to your student to complete on paper).  Some of them lend to list-making opportunities if you desire to have your student make a list.

What things did Nico get to make the octopus feel at home?

What did Nico feed his Octopus?

What did Nico do to test how smart the octopus was.

Why did Nico call the octopus an alien?

What was normally done when an octopus was found?

Nico calls the Octopus the chameleon of the seas. Why? How does the octopus compare to a chameleon?

Do you think the Octopus make a good pet for Nico? Why or Why not?

Do you think an Octopus would be a pet you would choose? Why or why not?

We are never told that Nico named his Octopus? Can you think of reasons why he may not have named it? Would you have named it-if you had found it?  If yes, what would you have named it? Why?


Creative Writing
Do you already have a pet you love? You could write about it.  Have you ever wished to have a pet? What kind of pet would you like? Write a few sentences to describe the pet and how you would take care of it.


Octopus is singular, to speak of more than one you would say Octopuses or Octopi.  You may wish to discuss other irregular plurals with your student (di/dice, cactus/cactuses or cacti, hippopotamus/hippopotamuses or hippopotami etc).



Art - Your very own alien
Create an alien of your own-by drawing it. Write about it. Where does it live-how does it breathe, eat, what does it do, etc?    My children did not seem to creative in this endeavor, so we did the following:  

We put different colored paint blobs on paper and folded them in half and spread the paint by running our hands over the top folded half. We pulled it back open and then we really had some cool aliens. Then they used their imaginations to tell more about them.


Draw an Octopus
Draw a picture of a tank or ocean scene for him to live in. Put foil stars on the picture-to represent the little babies.   Or have your student draw an octopus and then take a piece of gray, black, or brown construction paper and cut a hole a bit smaller than the octopus itself.  You want it to look like the octopus is hiding inside a rock cave (similar to the illustration in the story where Nico and the fisherman and looking in the aquarium).   Glue the octopus drawing behind the "rock" paper so that it looks like she is peeking out.   Now run a strip of glue around the "entrance" of the rock.  Sprinkle uncooked rice around the glue so that it holds.  This is your octopus's bead curtain and each bead (grain of rice) is your octopus's eggs.  Remind your student of the passage in the book that told us each octopus egg is as small as a grain of rice


Art - Architecture
If you notice in the illustrations-people are seen on the roofs of buildings. In many other countries, homes and buildings are built with flat roofs.   The roof area is used as a recreation area. Most of the roofs have lounging chairs, plants, grills for grilling out etc. This also helps give people an area for recreation-because in many countries there are little to no yards available. (Perhaps only a courtyard.)

People in America mostly have decks or porches off the side, front or back of the house.




Shapes- Star
Why do you think they refer to the octopus as a star? Practice drawing stars.

What other shapes can you find throughout the story?

Shapes with eight-Oct  means eight- and Octagon has 8 sides. Can you draw one?


Eight arms
Count the arms. Count bubbles, Count babies, group babies, etc.

Simple adding and subtracting. (Word problems)

If the octopus was given 5 fish-and grabbed one with each arm-how many arms would be free?

If you gave him 10 fish-how many more arms would he need to grab them at once?

If he held 2 fish in each arm -how many fish would he be holding? What about 3 fish in each arm?


Teach skip counting by 8’s

Note about Greek Alphabet/Greek Math Figures
If you use Math U See--the levels the child goes through are named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, etc. Taken from the Greek Alphabet. Pi and Epsilon are actual math figures.  Why did Math U See chose Greek letters and math figures to name each level? 


Octopus Printable math sheet


Kidzone has many ocean-themed math pages
Here is a 1st grade addition worksheet with an octopus on it!


Science -- Octopus
Read the author's note about octopuses--in the back of the book for great information on the octopus. (Note to parent:  There is a reference to milLions of years and to evolution in this note.  You could just skip it, change the wording, or read it as is and discuss what your family believes.)  

After reading the author’s information to your child ask these questions:

Where do Octopuses normally live? What do they normally eat? What happens to the female after she lays eggs? Why?  Ask your child to tell you some other facts he can remember. (They are very smart-they can remember what they have learned.)

Octopus Anatomy
Let's talk a bit more about the octopus....after all it is one of God's most amazing creatures!  The word Octopus comes from the Greek word meaning Eight Footed.  It's easy to see why they have that name!   The arms (sometimes mistakenly referred to as legs) of an octopus are called tentacles.  We've already learned that each tentacle has rows of suction cups:  two rows to be exact.  They help the octopus to hold on to things and to help them to move about.  Did you know that the suckers on the arms can TASTE?!    And did you  know that if it should lose of its arms, that it will grow another back in its place?!

Octopuses have no bone structure, that means they are invertebrates.   The head of an octopus is called a mantle.  Inside the mantle are all of the octopus' vital organs.  Octopuses have excellent sight, smell, and touch abilities, but they are completely deaf. 

To allow the octopus to to breathe, God designed 'mantle slits' behind the eyes of an octopus. An octopus draws in water through the slits and into the mantle. There, two gills remove the oxygen from the water.  After that the slits close and the water is released through a tube called the 'siphon.'

An octopus has a sharp beak that it uses to crack shells and to inject poisons into their prey.

The Octopus has three hearts--one to pump their blue blood around their body and the other two to pump blood to their gills.  Blue blood!?! The author sums it up best when he said (in the author's note at the back of the book) “No alien from another galaxy could beat that!

Octopuses have the ability to change colors.  They have special cells in their skin that allow this.  They can change colors quite rapidly!  They can change colors to reflect their mood.  If they are mad, they turn red.  If scared, they turn white.  Changing colors also allows them to blend in with their surroundings, thereby alluding their enemies.  Let's talk about the ways an octopus can defend themselves.


Defending Themselves: 

Octopuses face many dangers in the sea, and you would think that since it has no hard shell or skeletal system that it would be easy to catch.  But our awesome Creator designed the octopus to have several ways of protecting themselves!

Run --  Their primary way of defending themselves is to get away quick!  They are able to move at great speeds through the water.  They can reach speeds of 25mph if absolutely necessary, though they cannot maintain this speed for long periods of time.

Ink -- The octopus can squirt a dark, inky liquid into the water to prevent the enemy from seeing it and then it swims away to safety.  They also use this method to hunt for food.  They will squirt the ink at the food, and then sneak around behind it to grab it!

Bite --  Octopuses have a sharp beak with which they can bite and release poison into their enemy.

Camouflage -- Another way they help defend themselves is Camouflage.  Octopuses have special coloring to help them blend in with their surroundings or to confuse their enemies.  A little way down on this page are two Dan Schmitt showing an octopus in full color (non-camouflaged) and then one that is camouflaged.  Wonderful photos on this page.  Celia was able read some of the article about how an octopus is able to change its color and it was fascinating!  I hadn't realized that the octopus could change the texture of its skin as well as the color!  If you have RealPlayer and a satellite or cable Internet connection, this PBS video shows in the first few seconds an octopus changing right before your eyes!  Those on dial-up can try this link, but it's very small.

Hiding - Without any bone structure, octopuses are able to make themselves fit into just about anything!  They will often hide in holes in the rocks.  
Now that you've learned so much about octopuses, don't you think they are amazing!

Octopus Coloring Pages:  
Page 1    Page 2     Page 3 PDF file    Page 4

Writing Activity for older student:  Octopuses are fascinating!  Have your older student research more about them and write a report.  He might learn new words like cephalopods, chromatophores, chemoreceptors, and more!

Click here for Octopus-themed Notebooking Paper


Octopus Shape Book at Enchanted Learning

For more information on the Octopus visit:  and  (camouflaging)
A great site to view different pictures of a common octopus.

Parents you may wish to preview PBS's Nature episode entitled The Octopus Show to see if it would be appropriate to watch with the children.   Here is a link to info about the show.


Days of creation
Can your child recall which day of creation God made the creatures of the sea?  
See Genesis 1:20.  Make a list of all the sea-creatures that you can think of!   How many wonderful creatures God made on the 5th day!  Answers in Genesis has a neat way for you to teach your child to draw the Days of  Creation!  There are step-by-step directions, as well as animations of how it should be taught.  It is so simple, but it will help your child to remember!


Bible (additional Social Studies & History)


Character Traits: Have older students look up and write the definition of these words.


The old man tells Nico that the mother “gives up her life for her babies.”

Jesus did this for us; He came to give His up his life for us. What are ways that our parents give up their lives for their children? (not in a literal sense) but there are other ways we give our lives to others. (Setting down our own agenda-for others who need us.) In John 3:16 the Bible says that for God so loved the world that he gave his only son-. (That was the ultimate sacrifice to send his only son to die for us.) Love proves itself in actions. (For God so loved us that He GAVE--Love moves, Love demonstrates. The Bible says in 1John 3:16 that Jesus laid down His life for us, and that we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. What are some ways that God calls us as Christians to lay down our lives for others? (Missionaries-many times are literally killed for the sake of spreading the gospel.)


Nico finds the Octopus and he has compassion for it. He knows it is destined to die-so he steps in to save it from the coming peril. We likewise were lost in our sin (dead in our sin) destined to die without hope, but God stepped in with his plan of salvation (way of escape) through Jesus. God showed as His ultimate act of compassion toward us when he sent us Jesus. What are some ways we can demonstrate compassion to others?


Once Nico decided to rescue the octopus, he was committed to the process.

He had to figure out ways to take care of his new pet. He had to give it a good environment to live in, -he needed salt water-not faucet water. He had to feed it daily. He checked up on it daily. (What would happen if Nico just decided to neglect the octopus for a week or so?) It would probably die from lack of food.  God did the same thing when he planned a place for man. He formed the Earth, gave it water and air, created the sun, moon and stars to govern the days, nights and seasons-a lot of thought went into forming a place for man to live. None of the other planets are suitable for us to live on. (Genesis 1-3.)


Bible: Paul-Saul/Paul of Tarsus
Saul was a person who persecuted Christians. On his way to Damascus (to capture and imprison Christians), Jesus revealed himself to Saul. The Bible goes on to tell the story of his conversion and his new name -Paul. (Acts 9)


Paul’s Missionary Journeys: Greece
After Jesus ascended into heaven the good news spread throughout Rome and Greece. Paul was a missionary and went to Crete (A Greek Isle) to tell others about Jesus. You can read more about Paul’s Missionary Journeys and the spread of Christianity. Thessalonica, Corinth, and Athens are all cities in Greece (you may want to find these on a map as well as the isle of Crete).  Paul founded the churches in Corinth and Philippi. You could have older students locate these cities on a map of Greece. Paul wrote several letters to the churches in these areas-and we have those as books of the Bible-- Philippians, Thessalonians and Corinthians. 
more information.


Greece the Religion then and now
Greece was a different place as far as religion goes at the time of Jesus and Paul. Discuss or have your child list the differences from then to now. Then people worshipped many gods, Hercules, Zeus, Isis, etc. today Greece is predominately Greek (Eastern) Orthodox (a Christian denomination) more information


Bible-Greek words-Alpha and Omega
In Revelation 1:8 God says “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the End, who was and is and is to come.” These words were not just changed in our Bible to the words beginning and ending-they have remained (Alpha and Omega) in our Bible. Alpha is the first letter (meaning beginning) in the Greek Alphabet and Omega is the last letter- meaning ending.. (I believe that those words (Alpha and Omega) were used for a specific reason at a specific time.) Can your child brainstorm why God may have chose at that time to use those words? The known world at that time primarily worshipped these false Greek mythological gods. The setting for the book of Revelation takes place on the Greek Island of Patmos. John received this book of Revelation while he was imprisoned there-because he was a Christian. So God is saying I am the first-I was here in the beginning, in fact I am the beginning! I am the last and will be here at the end. I am the sovereign, the only God. I( was) in the beginning, I am now (is) and will come again- (is to come.)

more information


Bible: Our Amazing Creator!
The octopus is such an incredible creature-as you read more under the science section –you can only be in awe of what an amazing God we serve. Read through chapters 38-39 (chapter 40:15 speaks of other created creatures) in Job with your child. Discuss this thought-- If God went to such lengths to make the earth and living creatures-how much more precious are we (people created in His image) to Him? Could a belief in evolution ever be true? Could our great big incredible world have just somehow happened on it’s own?


Bible (idols)
The Greek Religion was polytheistic. Does your child understand this word? This means they had many gods; they also had many statues (idols) of these gods in their temples. What does the Bible say about this? It is actually God’s first and second commandments. Can your child recall them? These may be good verses to look up and have your child write. Deut 5:7-10


Bible Story:  Luke 5
The opening of the story mentions the nets filled to the brim with fish. It reminded me of the story of Peter fishing-Jesus told Peter to cast out his net. (This was after Peter had fished all night and caught nothing.) Yet at the Lord’s request Peter obeyed and was rewarded.

When he cast out the nets they became so full the men could barely pull them in. These nets were also filled to the brim with Fish. Luke 5:1-6


Just for Fun!

Octopus Craft


Music:   Sing the song, An Octopus's Garden!  I think the Beatles did it originally, but you can find it on many children's CDs.  I know Raffi did a version.



Octopus-Cheesy Mac and Hotdog Meal

Marshmallow Octopuses


Music: Bagpipes-Musical Instrument

The story states “Octopuses of all sizes were hanging up to dry, like old gray bagpipes, waiting to be stewed with wine in a pot."

What does this mean? Why would they compare a bagpipe to an octopus.

Has your child ever seen a bagpipe. If you have a children’s dictionary there may be a picture to show your child. Bagpipes are more predominately played in Europe than America.

More Information


Listen to Bagpipes at 

Listen to music at Bagpipe World Radio!  
Click on the tab labeled "Media" to hear short clips of 10 different songs played with the bagpipe.


Go Along Books:

Somewhere in the Ocean (A counting Book) by Jennifer Ward and T.J. Marsh

Aaaarrgghh Spider! by Lydia Monks –a cute book about a spider that wants to be a pet.

You wouldn’t want to be a slave in Ancient Greece by Fiona Macdonald

First Facts about the Ancient Greeks by Fiona Macdonald

Spend the Day in Ancient Greece-Projects and Activities that bring the Past to Life by Linda Honan

The Greek News by Anton Powell



Rabbit Trails:

The Olympics, Alexander the Great, Greek Mythology, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle

The planets and constellations named after Greek gods- Venus, Mars, Mercury, Neptune and Jupiter are all named after mythological Greek gods. More Information


You could have older children look up the different gods and see which constellation was named after each god.