Teaching students about the ocean while living inland is easier than it would have been sixty years ago. Then there were no such thing as television or computers. Students had to rely on pictures in magazines and newspapers and those would have most likely been in black and white. Only a fortunate few would have seen an ocean and mostly that would have been those fortunate enough to live close by an ocean.
Now things have changed. Most children have seen an ocean and those that haven’t see pictures of it from television. Added to that most schools now have computers and science projects. Oceanography, then, is not such a far-fetched idea for students living inland or near a coast.
For those still too young to do most of these things on their own, there are wonderful online projects and lesson plans for teachers who want to effectively instill in these little minds a love for this great watery way. They know with a little encouragement their students may want to do as Ishmael, the narrator in Moby Dick did, go on a sea-faring adventure.
Three of Teresa Moore’s lesson plans for grades 2/3 on oceanography and other science projects are reviewed below:
Experiment1. Seeing Sea Salt:
This is to teach students that salt is in the ocean even if it cannot be seen. She carefully explains what prior knowledge is necessary before performing this particular experiment. They are to assemble the needed equipment, (“a 2-cup measure, hot tap water, I/4 cup measure, salt and a pie plate.”)
The exact procedure is too long to be printed here but basically she has her students sit around a table where the equipment is assembled and they talk and ask questions about the ‘salinity’ of the ocean. The idea is to see the salt. To make the project more entertaining she tells them to imagine they are on a research boat and they are all research scientists.
The captain is the teacher and her assistant is the co-captain. She has crew leaders; and record keepers and an important job for every student. Of course they look at maps and pictures. And they talk and ask questions about the differences between water from their sinks and sea water. Then they start the experiment. Each day, when it is time for this lesson, they observe, and take notes on the progression of their experiment.
At the end of the week-long project they get together and discuss their findings. What happens is that the water evaporates from having been on the radiator for a week. Only the salt will be left; yes they answer, we can see the salt from the ocean.
Experiment 2. Animal life in the ocean
Another experiment has to do with animal life in the ocean. In this learning session they are to do paintings and write stories. The props used in this project are drawing and writing materials. Here, she is having them learn how animals maneuver through the ocean. They learn what parts of the various animals adapt them for survival in the ocean.
The fun part of this experiment is the painting of an imaginary animal using three parts of sea animals. These would include fins, scales, shells, shape of bodies, etc. Then after the painting and the discussion they will write a story about their ocean animal.
Experiment 3. Oil spills in the ocean
The third project has to do with oil spills in the ocean. They will be using cooking oil, bowls, large spoons, food coloring and water. Before this experiment they will have been learning how oil spills kill plant and animal life in the ocean.
The teacher as captain, on this third research mission, explains that they are to help clean out a spill in the Pacific Ocean. She divides her students into crews consisting of five each. Each crew will decide on a method of clean up.
Schools sure have changed since my second and third grade in a one room school over sixty-five years ago, but one thing has not changed: The amount of work and creativity of very good teachers, and the ways they get their students to help in clean up tasks.
I worked hard keeping the playground free of waste paper when younger and bringing in buckets of drinking water when i was a little older. The closest I ever got to an ocean was a nearby creek that was an endless source of wonder. I finally got to stick my toe into the Atlantic Ocean while on a High School class trip to Washington D.C. and New York City.