THURSDAY, Nov. 10, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Bringing live fish to school helps teach kids about biology and improves their attitudes about science, new research suggests.

The study included nearly 20,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who watched zebrafish develop from single cells to swimming larvae with beating hearts and distinct colors over a week.

During that time, students in all grades showed significant learning gains and also reacted more positively to statements such as "I know what it's like to be a scientist."

Researchers said the findings, published Nov. 10 in the journal PLOS Biology, suggest immersive experiences like these can help engage students in science, technology, engineering and math.

"The kids can't wait for a chance to look at their fish -- they're natural scientists," study co-author Steven Farber said. Farber is an adjunct associate professor in the department of biology and School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

"They're so focused on the experiments, it doesn't feel like school," added Farber, a biologist and principal investigator at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

More information

Kids.gov offers a science resources.