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Atmosphere, Elementary (K-4), Oceans



Earth's Oceans

Five Earth oceans with different names.
None alike and none the same.
Some are warm and some cold.
Can you find one on a globe?

Now take your finger and go around.
Follow the ocean between the ground.
Keep on going just for fun.
Are there many oceans or just one?

Stretching far from shore to shore.
High above the ocean floor.
To tell you would take too much time.
But would you at least read this rhyme
About Earth's ocean air?

Ocean Air

If you take a trip to the shore.
Pack you suit and fins and more.
You could breath the ocean air.
What kind of birds fly way up there?

Ocean air smells kind of funny.
Full of clouds, but often sunny.
Big, dark clouds send out a warning.
How soon will it be thunderstorming?

Ocean air can be very wet.
Hot and sticky, yep, you bet.
Full of water that you can't see.
How causes all that humidity?

Ocean air can be cold and dry.
No clouds up in that ocean sky.
Ocean air can be thick with fog.
How is fog different from city smog?

Water cycle and ocean air in motion.
Bring you water from out of the ocean.
Over the mountains and across the plains.
Yesterday's shower, was that ocean rain?

Over ocean water ocean winds blow.
Some are fast and some are slow.
Some are dry and some blow rain.
Is that big storm a hurricane?

On the beach you think you might.
Use ocean winds to fly a kite.
Climbing high and dipping low.
What causes ocean winds to blow?

Ocean storms have special names.
Typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes.
Could they be prevented through a session.
Do deal with an ocean's tropical depression?

Stars in the sky on ocean nights.
Far from the shore and city lights.
Moon and stars the sky they share.
But are they a part of ocean air?

Ocean air, there's so much of it.
Stars and Moon so high above it.
Has this poem made you care.
And want to learn more about ocean air?

An Ocean of a Problem?
Some say there is a change out there.
That could change Earth's ocean air.
How could that change the plans
Of living things on Earth's dry lands?

As you learn about Earth's ocean air, part of Earth's atmosphere, think about these Essential Questions:
  • How is ocean air like air in your neighborhood? How is it different?
  • How does ocean air move?
  • Why is ocean air important to ocean living things?
  • How is ocean air connected to ocean water and land?
  • Why is ocean air important to living things on dry land?
  • How could changes in ocean air change the lives of living things on dry land?


Date: 8/3/2009

Scenario Images:

Ocean Surface Winds
Atlantic Ocean Surface Winds. Areas with slower winds are blue and areas with faster winds are orange. The movement of ocean air across the surface of ocean water creates waves, currents and weather patterns. This graphic was created using QuickSCAT satellites data. Go here to learn more about this image. Image credit: NASA JPL Photojournal

Would you like to be a hurricane hunter and in and out of the eye of a storm? Hurricanes are Earth's biggest and most powerful storms. Do you have hurricanes where you live? Go here to how hurricanes are born. Image:

Can it rain frogs? How about squid or even tomatoes? It can if these creatures are sucked up into a waterspout. Waterspouts are created when a tornado forms over water. Go here to learn more about froggy rain. Go here to learn more about waterspouts. Image credit: Historic NWS Collection, Dr. Joseph Golden, NOAA

El Nino
Every once in awhile a big change happens in the Pacific Ocean. A change in the trade winds causes a change in the temperature at the surface of the ocean. These changes result in changes in weather patterns that have global effects.The red colors in this image show the warmer sea surface temperatures (sst) during a strong El Nino in 1997. Is an El Nino happening now? Compare the image above to this image and see if you can figure it out. Image credit: NOAA

weather flags
Historically, weather flags were used to warn bathers, boaters and others about possible storms or wind conditions. The National Weather Service retired the use of these flags in 1989. The Coast Guard put storm flags back into use in 2007. Full story. Image credit: NOAA



Earth Science Basics (Cycle A)
Need information about Earth's cycles, systems and processes? These resources are for you:

  • Visit an Earth Science Museum. Use the elevator to explore the different floors and learn about Earth's systems, cycles, dinosaurs and more. For kids and teachers.
  • K-4 Earth Science Modules. Four online modules for K-4 students and teachers that include information, games and hands-on investigations exploring biomes, weather and climate, remote sensing and Earth's systems.


Ocean Air (Cycle A)
The following sites have information about how ocean air weather topics:

  • Role of the Ocean in Weather. This site explores the how ocean water interacts with the atmosphere. Not suitable for lower grade levels.
  • This Windows on the Universe weather page has basic information about weather topics for elementary students.
  • The water cycle links ocean water to ocean air and to air, water, land and living things everywhere. Water Cycle Animations:


Learn About Ocean Air for Teachers (Cycle B)
The following resources provide in-depth information about the interaction of the ocean and atmosphere:

  • NOAA Learning Objects provide in-depth information in an engaging format about Earth's oceans. Access the lesson: Hurricanes for a comprehensive study of these powerful storms.
  • NOAA Ocean Service Education: The Ocean's Role in Weather and Climate This site has information and more for teachers and students. Be sure to check out the NSTA tutorials (free) and the interactives, too.
  • What is an ElNino? What causes an ElNino? How does an ElNino affect global weather patterns? The NOAA ElNino Theme Page has information, animations and more about this oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific.
  • NOAA's Hurricane Basics
  • NSTA Science Objects NSTA Science Objects are on-line interactive inquiry-based modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. Many objects are free to non-members and can be saved in a personal library by creating an account. On the home page select Earth and Space Science from the Subjects menu. Scroll to find topics of interest and these free specific objects from the weather topics:
    • Ocean Effects on Climate and Weather: Global Circulation Patterns
    • Oceans Effects on Climate and Weather: Global Precipitation and Energy
    • Effect of Oceans on Weather and Climate


Design You Own Investigation for Teachers (Cycle C)
The following sites have information, lesson plans and more about ocean topics:

  • NOAA Acitivty Book celebrating 200 years of NOAA research in pdf format.
  • NOAA Ocean Service Education page with links to ocean activity books and investigations.
  • Science Net links Has lessons, tools and resources for standards-based teaching.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Teachers' Place
  • Disney's Oceans Complete with an 8 page activity and 42 page teachers' guide for your classroom.
  • This issue of Beyond Polar Bears and Penguins online magazine explores Polar Oceans. Includes misconceptions, activities, recommended books and more. Additional archived issues are available here.
  • This American Library Association site has links to all kinds of great websites for kids.


Digital Library for Earth System Science (Cycle C)
The ultimate resource for Earth Science lesson plans, investigations and publications.


Looking for Interactives (Cycle C)
Here are a couple interactive sites that allow students to explore ocean topics.


Sample Investigations:


Do an Ocean Air Investigation (Cycle A)
Earth's oceans are big and cover more than 70% of its surface. Above all of that ocean water is ocean air. Ocean air is important to ocean living things and living things in your neighborhood, too. Ocean air is where ocean weather happens. Do one or more of the following investigations and see what you can learn about ocean air.
Difficulty: beginner


Is There Ocean Air in There? (Cycle A)
Ocean air in ocean water? Is there air in there? Why is ocean air in ocean water important to ocean living things? In this investigation you explore ocean air in ocean water.

Is There Ocean Air in There? for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


Make Your Own El Nino (Cycle A)
Every two to seven years, the trade winds in the ocean air over the Pacific Ocean change. This change in the ocean air causes the ocean water surface temperatures to change. These changes lead to changes in ocean currents, weather patterns and more. It's an El Nino. Want to make your own El Nino? Then this investigation is for you! Or whip up some El Nino pudding and eat it while you learn about El Nino.

Make Your Own El Nino for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


Messages Blowing in the Wind (Cycle A)
Signal flags are used to send messages from ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore. There are two types of signal flags, semaphore and maritime. Semaphore flags are used to spell out the words in a message one letter at a time. Maritime flags can represent a single letter in the alphabet or an entire message. In this investigation you use maritme flags to send and receive messages. If you don't want to have make all of those maritime flags, here's a cool tool that you can use to print out your messages or a small, entire set of maritime flags.

Want to try something different with flags? Check out the flags(scroll down the page to the Day Time Coastal Warning Display) the US Coast Guard uses to post weather warnings for small craft advisories. Then create your own set of flags for the weather in your neighborhood.

Messages in the Wind for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


Sand Dune Erosion in a Box (Cycle A)
Ever gone back to your favorite beach after a hurricane or a severe storm only to find that the dunes you loved to climb are gone? Do this investigation to explore how wind can change the landscape of a sandy beach.

Sand Erosion in a Box for Teachers Notes: This investigation could be conducted as demonstration. Do it outdoors especially if students are conducting the investigation. Safety glasses are recommended to keep sand from getting into students' eyes. Substitute the dyed sand in the investigation with colored craft sand available at craft stores.
Difficulty: beginner


Why Is the Ocean Sky Blue and an Ocean Sunset Red? (Cycle A)
Have you ever watched the Sun set and disappear behind an ocean horizon? Even on the clearest blue-sky day, the sky turns red and orange as the Sun sets. Why is the ocean sky blue and an ocean sunset red?

Try this investigation and see if you can figure it out. Then go here to learn more.

Why is the Ocean Sky Blue...for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


Learn About Ocean Air (Cycle B)
Work with your team to find answers to questions of your own and these Essential Questions about Earth's ocean air:

  • How is ocean air like air in your neighborhood? How is it different?
  • How does ocean air move?
  • Why is ocean air important to ocean living things?
  • How is ocean air connected to ocean water and land?
  • Why is ocean air important to living things on dry land?
  • How could changes in ocean air change the lives of living things on dry land?

Difficulty: beginner


Design an Ocean Air Investigation (Cycle C)
Design an investigation of your own that will help students ask and seek answers to questions like these about Earth's ocean land:

  • How is ocean air like air in your neighborhood? How is it different?
  • How does ocean air move?
  • Why is ocean air important to ocean living things?
  • How is ocean air connected to ocean water and land?
  • Why is ocean air important to living things on dry land?
  • How could changes in ocean air change the lives of living things on dry land?

Difficulty: beginner




  • Science
    National Science Education Standards - Science Content Standards The science content standards outline what students should know, understand, and be able to do in the natural sciences over the course of K-12 education.
      • Science as Inquiry (Std A)
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understanding about scientific inquiry
      • Physical Science (Std B)
        • Properties of objects and materials
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Properties of earth materials
        • Objects in the sky
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Changes in environments
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Science as a human endeavor
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