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Elementary (K-4), Hydrosphere, 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.
In bays and gulfs and seas and more.
To tell you would take too much time.
But would you at least read this rhyme
About Earth's ocean water?

Ocean Water

If you decided to take a trip.
On a boat or sailing ship.
Which oceans would you choose.
To be a part of your ocean cruise?

Some are cold and some are warm.
Some are calm and some have storms.
Ocean water blue and green.
How many oceans have you seen?

Ocean water moves around.
Out in the sea and even on dry ground.
Water cycle and ocean air.
Does your rain water come from there?

Near the shore things move about.
As tides come in and tides go out.
Pulled by a force that you can't see.
What do you know about gravity?

Up and down ocean waves go.
Close to the beach they seem to grow.
Like roller coasters they behave.
Do you know what causes ocean waves?

Ocean water moves in currents, too.
Peru, Alaska and Gulf Stream are a few.
Some flow down deep and some near the surface.
Like water conveyor belts, do they have a purpose?

So many ways of moving, oceans' got 'em
North and South and top to bottom.
Big changes out in the Pacific sea.
An El Nino? Now what could that be?

Earth's oceans are really grand.
But ocean water's not like that on land.
Not fresh, it's salty, for fish, just fine.
Could you pickle sea cucumbers in ocean brine?

Ocean water, there's so much of it.
And ocean critters, they just love it.
So much water that you can't drink.
Are ocean fish thirsty, do you think?

So many things live in the sea.
And sure, the ocean's a fun place to be.
But why should you make such a bother.
To learn about Earth's ocean water?

An Ocean of a Problem?
Some say there is a change out there.
That could change Earth's ocean air.
How could that change Earth's ocean water
And could we stop it if we were smarter?

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


Date: 8/3/2009

Scenario Images:

Blue Marble
Earth seen from space. See all of that blue? That's all ocean. All that ocean water and not a drop of it that you can drink. What if there was a way to take the salt out of the ocean water? Watch how they do it. Image credit: NASA

Tidal Pool
A parrot fish in a tidal pool. Ocean water moves in tides. Tidal pools fill with ocean water when the tide is high. When the tide is low, some of the water stays trapped in the pool. Many creatures live in tidal pools. Listen to this song about tides. Image:

Ocean water moves in waves. Waves can be out in the open ocean or crashing into the shore. Waves come in all sizes. Listen to this song about how ocean living things hold on or go with the flow of ocean waves. Image:

Ocean Currents
That's not a road. That's the global oceanic conveyor belt. All of Earth's oceans are connected. The ocean water moves around the Earth in currents. Some of the currents are warm and near the surface and others are cold and way down deep near the ocean floor. Watch this animation and see how the oceanic conveyor belt moves. Here's a map of Earth's major currents. Image credit: NOAA

Ocean currents don't just move ocean water, they move floating ocean junk, too. In 1990, 60,000 Nike tennis shoes fell off a container ship in the Pacific. Shoes starting washing up on beaches as early as six months after the spill. Beachcomers and scientists were able to track the shoes' progress until late in 1993. Learn more about ocean junk. Image credit: NASA seawifs courtesy Steve McLeod and Donovan Johnson

Under the Ice
Ocean under the ice. Not all oceans are nice and warm. Arctic and Antarctic ocean water is very cold and often covered by thick sheets of ice. Even an ocean that is nice and warm at the surface may be very cold near the bottom. A different kind of ice, methane ice, forms on the deep ocean floor in some places like the Gulf of Mexico. Do you think anything can live there in the cold and dark on the methane ice? Want to see what a methane ice worm looks like close up and personal? Take a look at this methane ice worm. Image credit: NOAA



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

  • Water Cycle - Interactive Water Cycle for Kids from the USGS. Select Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced viewing level.
  • 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 Water (Cycle A)
The following resources provide information and materials to help you learn about ocean water.

  • Discover Water - For kids. Everything you want to learn about Earth's water. Select Discover our Ocean then play the games, explore, and create a printable poster to share what you learn.
  • NOAA Ocean Facts Have questions about Earth's oceans? NOAA has the answers and more.
  • Exploring the Oceans This Extreme Science site has ocean information and more.
  • The following sites have information about ocean water and how it moves:


Learn About Ocean Water for Teachers (Cycle B)
USe the following site to learn about Earths' ocean water.

  • NOAA Learning Objects provide in-depth information in an engaging format about Earth's oceans. Access the lessons on: The Water Cycle, Ocean Currents, Ocean Waves, Tides, Energy from the Ocean and Ocean Pollution for a comprehensive study of Earth's ocean water.
  • NOAA El Nino Theme Page for information about this ocean phenomena.
  • Tsunami Interactive Learn all about tsunamis. This site takes awhile to load.


Design You Own Investigation for Teachers (Cycle C)
The following resources have lesson plans, investigations and other information to help your create that perfect investigation for your students.

  • NOAA Acitivty Book celebrating 200 years of NOAA research in pdf format.
  • NOAA Ocean Service Education site with link to a variety of activity books and resources. Access full Lessons Plans from the Teachers menu.
  • NOAA Ocean Service Education Ocean Basics with links for teachers and students about Earth's ocean water.
  • Sources of Ocean Images and Videos
  • 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:


Build a Ocean Sand Globe (Cycle A)
The beach is where ocean water and the shore meet. It's a place where you can swim in ocean water and walk on ocean land. It's a place where you can see the ocean water move in waves. It's a place where you can watch the tides rise and fall. It's a place where you can touch, see or hear ocean living things. It's a place where you can watch, hear and smell the ocean air. Want to put a bit of the ocean in a jar? Then this investigation is for you.

Build an Ocean Sand Globe for Teachers
This investigation is recommended for K-1.
Difficulty: beginner


Catch an Ocean (Cycle A)
How much of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean water? Do this investigation and see if you can figure it out.

Catch an Ocean for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


How Much Ocean Water Is There? (Cycle A)
In this investigation you will make an estimate of the amount of Earth's water in its oceans. Then you will make a model to see how close you came to the right answer.

How Much Ocean Water is 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 make some El Nino pudding and eat it while learning about ElNino.

Make Your Own El Nino for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


Ocean in Motion (Cycle A)
Ocean water moves. It moves in waves. It moves in currents. And it moves in tides. What causes waves? What causes currents? And what causes tides?

Want to learn more about how ocean water moves? Here are some investigations that explore waves, currents and tides:

Ocean in Motion for Teachers
Difficulty: intermediate
These investigations can be adapted for beginners or lower grade levels. One approach is conduct the invesitgations as a demonstrations and explore concepts through class discussion.


Salt? Fresh? What's the Difference? (Cycle A)
Besides tasting salty and not being water that you can drink, what else is different about ocean water? In this investigation you will explore some of the differences between salt water and fresh water.

What's the Difference? for Teachers
Difficulty: beginner


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

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

Difficulty: beginner


Design an Ocean Water Investigation (Cycle C)
Using what you've learned, design an investigation that allows students to explore questions of their own and these Essential Questions about Earth's ocean water:

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

Difficulty: intermediate




  • 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.
      The understandings and abilities associated with the following concepts and processes need to be developed throughout a student's educational experiences:
      • Systems, order, and organization
      • Evidence, models, and explanation
      • Constancy, change, and measurement
      • Evolution and equilibrium
      • Form and function
      • 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
        • Changes in earth and sky
      • Science and Technology (Std E)
        • Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans
      • 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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