Grade Level: 5-8
Curriculum Focus: Oceanography, Marine Biology, Food Chains, Ecosystems
National Standards Correlations
Using the Project in Your Classroom
While not as endless as the universe, the ocean is huge. As a teacher, you can approach studying the ocean in many different ways: You can explore the geological processes at play in the ocean, as well as the tremendous influence that the ocean exerts on our climate and on life on Earth in general. You can also discuss the different environments within the ocean. Or, you can go back in geological time and talk about how life evolved in the ocean, and what clues the ocean offers to how life might exist on other planets.
"Planet Ocean" introduces your students to the concept that 99 percent of all living space on this planet is within the ocean. Students will learn about diverse and complex kinds of animals that live in the ocean and the adaptations they have made to their environment. The animals featured each live in a different part of the ocean: blue whales live in the open ocean; barracudas live in coral reefs; and tubeworms live nearly a mile and a half under the sea in a dark and extreme environment. Finally, students will learn about food chains and the tactics used by predators and prey to stay alive in the watery world.
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This area is designed to give students a picture of the incredible size of the ocean as well as the diversity of species living there. Four sections include:
The ocean is immense:The ocean's surface area is larger than all the continents combined, and it has deeper canyons and taller mountains than anywhere on land.
The ocean is alive:The ocean is the source of life on earth and it remains one of the most diverse ecosystems. There are over 1 million known species of plants and animals living in the ocean. Since much of the ocean is still unexplored, scientists feel there may be as many as 9 million undiscovered species.
Gimme Energy:Life in the ocean, as on land, depends on the transfer of energy from one living creature to another. This transfer of energy takes place when an animal eats another animal or plant. All organisms in the ocean are interconnected either through a simple food chain or a more complex food web.
What's the Difference:Find out the difference between an ocean and a sea.
Amazing Facts:Remarkable facts and figures about the oceans.
The blue whale lives in the open ocean, migrating between the cold arctic waters where it feeds and more temperate waters where it mates and breeds. Students will learn about what makes whales mammals — they have lungs, give birth to and nurse live young, and are warm-blooded. Yet, whales could not exist on land. They need the water to survive. Students can listen to a blue whale's call, and learn amazing facts about the largest animal on Earth.
Coral reefs are a rich environment within the ocean. Life is plentiful and diverse, and barracudas are among the top predators in this ecosystem. This section explores the differences between mammals and fish. Students will learn about the adaptations that a barracuda has that make it such a good predator.
Life at a hot water, or hydrothermal, vent is extreme. Within a few feet, the water temperature can shift from a few degrees above freezing to 760 degrees centigrade. Tubeworms are the poster-animals for hot water vents. They can reach lengths of 8 feet and have brilliant lipstick-red plumes. These animals are amazing because they get their food via chemosynthesis — the creation of food from chemical energy rather than sunlight. Before scientists learned about these deep sea creatures, no one knew that chemosynthesis could be the basis of a food chain.
In this activity, students will be able to tally their votes for the most amazing animals under the sea. They will learn about the features and adaptations that ocean animals have, including camouflage, bioluminescence (an organism's ability to create light), and migration.
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National Standards Correlations:
The content and activities in this project helps students meet the following content standards for grades 5-8, as described in the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council).
Students should develop an understanding of:
Populations and Ecosystems:
Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
- A population consists of all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place and time. All populations living together and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem.
- Populations of organisms can be categorized by the function they serve in an ecosystem. Plants and some micro-organisms are producers — they make their own food. All animals, including humans, are consumers, which obtain food by eating other organisms. Decomposers, primarily bacteria and fungi, are consumers that use waste materials and dead organisms for food. Food webs identify the relationships among producers, consumers, and decomposers in an ecosystem.
(from the National Science Education Standards, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 1996)
- Millions of species of animals, plants, and micro-organisms are alive today. Although different species might look dissimilar, the unity among organisms becomes apparent from an analysis of internal structures, the similarity of their chemical processes, and the evidence of common ancestry.
- Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.
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Using the Project in Your Classroom:
Following are some suggestions for implementing "Planet Ocean" in your classroom.
What Do You Know?
Introduce this project by brainstorming. Find out what students know and would like to know about the ocean and ocean animals. Some questions to spark discussion might be:
You may wish to use each of these questions as a starting point for a discussion of what kids already know, then break the class into small groups. Assign each group one of the topics below and have them use The Planet Ocean Learning Adventure as the starting point for their research. Discuss their ideas, and, if appropriate, do additional research. Ask each group to present what they've learned about the animals they studied.
- Why is the ocean important to Earth?
- How long do you think it would take to travel around all the oceans?
- What part of the ocean would you like to explore?
- Do you think survival is easier or harder for ocean animals than land-based animals? Why?
- What's different about land-based animals and marine animals? What's the same?
- What is an adaptation?
- What are some adaptations of ocean animals that you know about?
Blue Whales and classification
Ask students to compare human beings to whales.
- How they would classify whales?
- Are they fish or mammals? Why?
- What animals do they think are related to whales?
Barracudas and food chains
- What are the similarities and differences?
- Ask them to compare whales to fish as well.
Explain that most fish swim by moving their tail from side to side, whereas whales swim by moving their tail up and down. Discuss the concepts of being warm and cold-blooded, and ask students how they think whales keep warm in the ocean. (Their thick layer of blubber insulates them like a warm coat.)
- What about how whales and fish breathe?
Explain the gills are organs that let fish extract oxygen from the water. Whales, like all mammals, have lungs rather than gills. That means they need to get their oxygen from the air rather than from water. You can follow up your conversation about whales with conversations about other types of animals that live in the ocean. Use Marine Megastars to introduce students to the many types of animals living in the ocean.
- How are they different or similar to land-based animals?
Engage your students in a discussion about food chains and food webs. If they don't know the difference between a food chain and a food web, explain that a food chain is usually a simple chain of one animal eating another plant or animal, whereas a food web is more complex.
Ask your students to create a description of an animal that could be a top predator in a coral reef.
- Where do they think a barracuda fits in a coral reef food chain?
- Do they know what a barracuda eats?
- What might eat a barracuda?
Use the barracuda section of the Planet Ocean Learning Adventure to begin research.
- What features would their imaginary predator have?
- What defense mechanisms could this animal's prey have?
Tubeworms and chemosynthesis
Until three decades ago, scientists didn't realize that anything could live near a hot water vent. These vents are deep in the ocean (often a mile and a half below the surface) where it is utterly dark. They are also super hot (as hot as 750 degrees Fahrenheit) and spew toxic chemicals.
Engage your students in a discussion of this physical environment and ask them to work in groups to make hypotheses about how animals might survive.
Explain the concept of chemosynthesis, or the creation of food using chemical energy rather than sunlight. For additional information about chemosynthesis and tubeworms, explore the tube worms section ofthis learning adventureto discover more.
- How would they get food?
- How would they protect themselves from the scalding hot water?
This activity is meant as a fun, information-packed way for students to learn about the variety of species living in the ocean. Students can vote in seven different categories for the animal that they think is the most impressive.
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- As a classroom activity, ask each student to pick one of the categories in the game without looking at the three animals listed in that category. Students can then conduct research on the ocean animals that might fit into that category. Then, when they come back to Marine Megastars to vote, they will be better able to make a choice. . .they might even find an animal that we didn't include!
Ask students to present reports about ocean animals (or plants) other than the ones presented in the Planet Ocean Learning Adventure. Why is it important to understand life in the ocean?
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There are other topics that can be explored in connection with the ocean. How does the ocean affect our climate? What are the different zones of the ocean? Refer to theResourcessection of the Planet Ocean Learning adventure for recommendations of other websites and books that you and your students can use.
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