COSEE California is committed to supporting the Ocean Literacy Campaign. One of our major contributions to the Campaign is the development of much needed ocean sciences curricula for Grades K-12.
The Lawrence Hall of Science has developed instructional materials that promote ocean literacy. Development of these curricula was:
- led by educators at the Lawrence Hall of Science with expertise in curriculum development, professional development, educational research, student assessment, science teaching, and marine sciences content;
- inclusive of scientists from around the country with expertise in marine ecology, biological and physical oceanography, geological processes, and climatology;
- modeled after the rigorous curriculum development process used at the Hall, which involved piloting in local classrooms, consultation with scientific experts, classroom tested by teachers nationwide in a wide variety of classroom settings, and carefully evaluated and revised based on student assessments and teacher surveys;
- focused on the core science concepts that students need to understand within a scientific discipline, designed in accordance with the latest research on human learning, and correlated to a significant number and range of national, state, and district standards and benchmarks.
Shoreline Science is a unit for grades 2-3 in the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading program. The unit teaches important life science and earth science concepts in the context of in-depth investigations of shorelines.
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- Earth science: Students learn that the ocean is a dominant feature of the Earth, covering a majority of the Earth’s surface. A shoreline is a place where water meets land, and a beach is a kind of shoreline. Students investigate Earth processes. They learn that erosion is a process that shapes the Earth as natural forces such as the movement of water, wind, or ice change parts of the land. Erosion can happen to an object, such as a rock, or a land form, such as beach. Students also investigate properties of Earth materials. Students learn that sand can be composed of many different materials, and that a sand’s properties are evidence of what it is made of and how it was formed.
- Organisms and ecosystems: Students learn about the organisms that live in shoreline ecosystems. The parts of a shoreline ecosystem- both living and non-living- interact with each other. Shoreline organisms have adaptations, including behaviors and body parts that help them survive in their ecosystem. Different parts of a sandy beach ecosystem, such as the nearshore habitat, the sandy beach habitat, and the beach wrack habitat, require different kinds of adaptations for organisms to survive.
- Human impact on ecosystems: Students learn that humans cause changes to ecosystems. People harm shoreline ecosystems through oil spills, by leaving trash on beaches, and by building dams, which prevent sand from being moved by rivers to beaches. People can help shoreline ecosystems by reducing the amount of oil that gets in the ocean, by cleaning up marine trash, and by recycling their trash.
Ocean Sciences Sequence Curriculum
The Ocean Sciences Sequence curriculum is a part of the GEMS Curriculum Sequence. It is correlated with the Ocean Literacy Framework, and provides teachers with standards-based tools for teaching basic science using the ocean as an integrating context. The curriculum includes:
- inquiry-based learning activities, with a materials kit
- Student Investigation Notebooks that include student readings and pages for writing and recording data
- an assessment system that includes summative and formative assessments.
These components allow the curriculum to be adopted by school systems and/or states as part of their mainstream science programs. The materials are extensively field tested and evaluated to ensure effectiveness. The results from the National Field Trial of the Grades 3–5 curriculum that took place in 700 classrooms across the country show that students made significant gains in understanding key ocean sciences concepts addressed in the curriculum.
Ocean Sciences Sequence Curriculum for Grades 3-5
Development of this curriculum was funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Administration's Environmental Literacy Grant (#NA07SEC4690003; $730,000; 2007-2010).
GEMS Curriculum Sequences are available from Carolina Curriculum. For details
The Ocean Sciences Curriculum Sequence for Grades 3-5 contains 25 60-minute lessons organized into three thematic units. Each unit may be taught independently or as a progression of all three units, and is appropriate for all three grades. All units are inquiry-based and include ample opportunities for student discussion.
- Unit 1: What Kind of Place is the Ocean? (8 sessions) Students learn that the ocean is the defining feature of our planet. By exploring globes, students discover that one large, interconnected ocean covers a majority of Earth’s surface. Students investigate ocean currents and ocean layers through physical models, a computer visualization, and specific scenarios. They learn that differences in temperature and salinity create layers of moving ocean water. Students learn about the depth of the ocean and discover that it varies greatly—it is deeper in places than the tallest mountains are high. Through readings, images, and simulations, students explore features of the ocean floor including trenches, deep-sea vents, and underwater mountains. Throughout the unit, students learn about the practices of science, with a focus on the use of models, scientific explanations and the role of evidence, and the role of technology in providing new evidence.
- Unit 2: What lives in the Ocean? (11 sessions). In this unit, students learn about the diversity of habitats and organisms in the ocean. Through videos, photographs, and readings, students investigate a range of ocean habitats, including coral reefs, arctic waters, and rocky shores. They investigate differences in conditions between habitats and discover that some ocean habitats support more life than others. Through videos, photographs, readings, organism models, and data, students investigate ocean organisms, including plankton. Students learn what an adaptation is and about adaptations that ocean organisms have that help them survive in specific ocean habitats. Particular focus is placed on adaptations related to movement and eating. Students create ocean food webs and build an understanding of how different organisms within a habitat can be connected. Students learn how habitats can be connected by organisms that use different habitats at different stages in their life cycles. Throughout the unit, students learn about the practices of science, with a focus on scientific explanations and the role of evidence. They also learn about the role of technology in providing new evidence.
- Unit 3: Humans and the Ocean (6 sessions) In this unit, students learn about interconnections between people and the ocean. Students explore ways that people use, need, harm, and protect the ocean. Particular focus is placed on fisheries and overfishing, pollution of the ocean, and what people can do to solve these problems and protect the ocean. Throughout the unit, students learn about the practices of science, with a focus on the use of models and scientific explanations and the role of evidence.
Ocean Sciences Curriculum Sequence for Grades 6-8
Development of this curriculum was funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric's Environmental Literacy Grant (#NA09SEC4690010; $750,000; 2010-2012).
For more information, visit the GEMS website
The Ocean Sciences Curriculum Sequence for Grades 6-8 is currently in development. It contains 34 45-minute lessons organized into three thematic units. Each unit may be taught independently or as a progression of all three units, and is appropriate for all three grades. All units are inquiry-based and include ample opportunities for student discussion.
- Unit 1: How do the ocean and atmosphere interact? (12 lessons)
The ocean and atmosphere are closely interconnected through major Earth systems. These include ocean and air currents, climate and weather patterns, the water cycle, and the flow and exchange of heat energy around the planet. In this unit, students learn about these connections through exploring what sets water and air currents in motion, and how what happens in the ocean affects the atmosphere, and vice versa. Students have many opportunities to delve into density – both as an observable phenomenon and on the molecular level. Students come to an understanding of how density relates to movement of water, air, and
heat on Earth. Thermal expansion and the concept that water is a heat reservoir are also explored in relation
to the ocean-atmosphere system.
- Unit 2: How does carbon flow through the ocean, land, and atmosphere? (9 lessons)
An understanding of how carbon flows between carbon reservoirs in Earth's systems is crucial to understanding climate change. Unfortunately, such understanding is often lacking among those debating this important issue. In this unit, students learn about how carbon flows from animals into the atmosphere through respiration, from the atmosphere into plants through photosynthesis, from the atmosphere into the ocean through absorption, into fossil fuels and sediments through decay, and from fossil fuels into the atmosphere through combustion. They learn that the flow of carbon into the atmosphere has been increasing in recent decades through the burning of fossil fuels, causing an imbalance in the carbon cycle. They also learn how this increase of carbon in the atmosphere has led to an increase of carbon dioxide in oceans, causing ocean acidification, and affecting ocean life.
- Unit 3: What are the causes and effects of climate change? (12 lessons)
In this unit students explore the causes and effects of climate change as well as possible solutions. Investigations address topics such as the greenhouse effect, melting glaciers and sea ice, sea level rise, human contributions to rising atmospheric CO2 levels, effects on organisms, and ocean-atmosphere connections. Students gain an understanding of the underlying causes of climate change. They also learn how pervasive its effects are on the Earth system as a whole. In the last few sessions students revisit the human contributions to climate change and the carbon cycle, which they learned about in Unit 2. They then brainstorm, learn about, and communicate with others about personal, local, and global solutions and adaptations to climate change.