Into The Ocean Lesson

Students will discuss the special adaptations of animals in different parts of the ocean and draw pictures of animals that live in different parts of the ocean, and tape their pictures up representing the ocean’s layers. Discuss in a paragraph why one of the animals they studied is important and should be protected for the future.

Computer with Internet access and drawing and writing materials

Ask students about their prior knowledge of ocean animals. Show students some of David Doubilet’s photographs. Explain that he is a famous photographer who specializes in taking pictures of the ocean. Ask students to think about why Doubilet’s pictures are important. What are some of the ways that humans interact with the ocean? Do people depend on the ocean for food? Get them to think about ships and boats, and waste products in the ocean, and how this might affect the animals and plants that live there. Explain that sometimes photographs of the creatures in the ocean help people understand how important it is to protect them.

Inform students that Doubilet’s photographs were taken at different ocean depths. Some were taken in shallower water, and some were taken in deeper water. Explain that different types of sea animals live at different depths. Can students determine which pictures were taken in shallower versus deeper water? Show students the poster paper you have decorated and taped to the wall. Introduce them to the different ocean layers, and describe a few things about each layer. For example, let them know that as the water gets deeper, it gets colder and darker. Ask students to think about the things that animals would need to be able to do or the body parts they would need to possess in order to survive at various ocean depths. Tell students that every animal has special adaptations to its environment and that all ocean animals are especially suited to the part of the ocean in which they live.

A potential project when studying the ocean in elementary school is to make a diorama depicting an ocean scene. Third-grade students should be able to research the ocean, select some plants and sea creatures that may be found together and find pictures of them to include in a diorama. Although a diorama can take many forms, some basic principles outline the process of making an ocean diorama.

  1. Paint the inside of a shoebox or other small box with blue paint. You can also swirl some green paint into the blue to add some depth to the ocean background.

Turn the shoebox on its side so the open edge is facing you.

Apply a light layer of glue with a paintbrush to the side of the shoebox that is now at the bottom. Sprinkle sand over the glue until it is all covered. After the glue is dry, shake off any excess sand.

Research ocean ecosystems and food chains using magazines, books, and online resources. Select one group of plants and sea creatures to include in the diorama.

Cut out pictures of the creatures and plants that you selected. Also include pictures of other elements of the habitat such as rocks, coral, and seaweed.

Glue plants to the background of the ocean diorama. For pictures of rock and coral, fold them and glue one half to the bottom of the box and another half will stand up; you can place these in the middle and toward the front of the box.

Cut pieces of the thread of varying lengths but all shorter than the distance from the top of the diorama to the bottom. Tape one end of each piece of thread to the back of a creature and tape the other end to the top of the ocean diorama so the creatures hang throughout the box. Things you will need:

  • Shoebox
  • Blue paint
  • Green paint
  • Paintbrush
  • White glue
  • Sand
  • Pictures of sea creatures, plants, rocks, coral
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Tape

Have students continue to think about what it would be like to be an ocean photographer like Doubilet. Why do students think Doubilet does his job? What would be the best and worst parts of his job? Ask them to write about whether they would like to have Doubilet’s job, and what they think a day in the life of an underwater photographer would be like.


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