Lesson Plans & Activities

We have compiled all of the lesson plans and activities that were created or gathered from throughout COSEE NOW projects and listed them below by Topic Categories. Enjoy!

Biology / Biological Oceanography:

Lesson Title Lesson Description
Biology Project: Gone Fishing (COOL Classroom) The students join the staff as the new writer of the hit fishing magazine “Gone Fishing.” Their job is to write an article that will help fisherman predict where fish should be found in the coastal ocean off of New Jersey. They are provided with a variety of scientific data to help them decide where the fish are and then write an article to share their predictions with fishing enthusiasts.
Can Agricultural Runoff Cause HABs: Effect of Nitrate Concentration on Algal Growth (Ocean Gazing #10)
Chlorophyll-a from Space! (Ocean Gazing #27)
Circulate with Critters (NSTA 2009) This data lesson, which uses activities from Are You An Ocean Critter and Jellies As Drifters, has students circulate around data stations to answer questions on the relationship between organisms and temperature.
C-MORE Educational Kits (CMORE) The Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) science kits offer lesson plans and materials for hands-on science activities focused on marine microbes in a self-contained format.
Coral Bleaching: A White Hot Problem (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #3) Assess coral bleaching using water temperature data from the NOAA National Data Buoy Center.
Coral Snapshots:Biodiversity in Marine Protected Areas (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) While it is possible to survey a coral reef using quadrats, scientists are now using cutting-edge technology to closely examine the entire reef; instead of extrapolating results from several study sites. Scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are taking video of reefs and then analyzing it via a computer program back in the lab.
Design an Aquarium Exhibit (LSC Extended Lab) Students will create an aquarium exhibit using information they have learned about the ocean and its organisms. They must consider what temperature and salinity will support the species they choose, population density, habitat requirements for each species, and compatibility between species. The students must also create a plan to find, collect, and transport the species they choose to have in their exhibit.
Deep Sea Communities: Diversity of the Deep (Ocean Gazing #29) Explore the diversity of organisms living on deep sea hydrothermal vents. The species in these unique communities have evolved to thrive in extreme temperatures and no light. This month’s data activity will introduce you to some of the common statistical measurements of diversity as you compare the organisms found at various locations on a hydrothermal vent at the Juan de Fuca Ridge.
Fish Communities: Compare and Contrast (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) Compare and contrast fish communities, diversity and habitats in U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries.
Fish Migration (COOL Classroom) Graphing and interpreting graphs is the basis of this online inquiry unit. There is cross content integration of concepts and skills including non-fiction reading, interpreting visual data, journal writing, and use of technology. Through this mini-unit students learn about ocean technology tools, how scientists represent tracking data, Striped Bass habitat, food chain, and migration.
Follow That Bloom (Ocean Gazing #25)
Food Web Challenge (COOL Classroom) This online activity provides background on food webs and then allows students to create marine food webs.
Gulf Stream Plankton Voyage Students interpret near real time chlorophyll a concentration maps and sea surface temperature maps to determine the location and concentration of phytoplankton in the ocean.
Hatch to Catch – Lobster Recruitment (COSEE MA) The American lobster, Homarus americanus, may seem like a tough cookie. However the lobster has a complex life history that ranges from free-floating planktonic larvae to large bodied bottom-dweller. Larval and post-larval lobsters can drift in the water column for a couple of months before settling on the bottom. But what if the currents don’t flow the right way? What if the water is too warm?
Hold the Anchovies (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) In this data tip the Bridge collaborates with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to examine the anchovy and sardine stocks in the Pacific. Has commercial overfishing brought these stocks to all-time lows, or might these be natural population fluctuations tied to climate change?
Microalgae Bloom Activity (FerrOCious Gulf) This activity comes from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and is a great way to get your students up and involved in the drama that occurs during an algae bloom, harmful or natural. This might be a good starting activity to spring into a focus on hypoxia, or discussion about maintaining balances in an ecosystem.
Micronutrients (Ross Sea Connection) A revision of the original diatom worksheet of the micronutrient experiment as part of an introduction to photosynthesis and respiration. The essential question is How do producers make food for themselves and others? The micronutrient study is an observation that will go along with chemical testing of what’s in food and glucose concentrations in geranium leaves that have been shaded and exposed to light. The write-up also includes an introduction to cell parts and cell chemistry.
Move it or Lose it (LSC Extended Lab) In this active game, students role play as migrating fish. They must interpret sea surface temperature (SST) data to stay in waters suitable for their species of fish, as well as collect enough food to survive the year.
One Ocean: It Matters! (Project PARKA) This lesson provides an introduction to the importance of the ocean, our interconnectedness with the ocean, and what types of ocean science occurs in Antarctica. Students are exposed to presentations and videos as well as work in groups of 4–6 students during a brainstorming session.
Ooze Clues (Ocean Gazing #36)
Plankton Lab (FerrOCious Gulf) This activity is designed to introduce participants to plankton that is found in your local waters, as well as give them a broad definition and some examples of the role of plankton in the marine world.  The students conduct a plankton tow and study their sample under compound microscopes in the lab.  They identify the organisms on their slide, and are challenged to discuss why plankton play an imperative role in this and other ecosystems in the world.
Plankton to Penguins: Antarctic Food Web (Project PARKA) Students will run a model of possible impacts to marine life as the amount of sea ice is reduced because of climate change. Then using a video presentation and brainstorming session students will begin to explore ocean acidification.
Ports and Estuaries (COSIA) In this activity, participants build a model showing how port construction impacts marine life in an estuary.
Respiration and Photosynthesis in Marine Ecosystems (FerrOCious Gulf) This lab is divided into two parts. Part one demonstrates that different organisms have different respiration rates and that producers provide the oxygen that all other organisms need to survive. Part two gets students thinking about whether respiration rate would change as a result of differing temperatures.
Satellite Tracking (Ocean Gazing #37)
Seasonality in the Ocean (LSC Extended Lab) Students will be introduced to sea surface color (chlorophyll) and sea surface temperature (SST) data, which they will analyze to compare and contrast differences between seasons on land and seasons in the ocean.
Spatial Literacy / Seagrass (COOL Classroom) This Human Impact Adventure explores the Barnegat Bay ecosystem and potential land development options around the Bay. Students work collaboratively to make a decision in a complex situation by taking into account science, social science, and the points of view of various stakeholders. The overarching question is how should a fictitious town zone a plot of land next to the Bay. Students engage in problem-based learning, as they must compile all of the presented information to make a recommendation to the town Zoning Commission on which way the town should zone the plot of land. Data interpretation, model formation, and spatial literacy are just some of the science practices highlighted throughout the unit.
Tale of a Tuna (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) The bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is one of the most impressive fish in the oceans and can also fetch one of the highest market prices.Investigate the atlantic bluefin tuna stocks and the management issues related with this international fishery.
Weeds in the Waterways (COSIA) This hands on activity explores how invasive species are transported in the ballast water of ships using a toy boat model. Information cards on real invasive species and their impacts are also available here.
Where to Go Fishing Using several sources of real time data, students must determine which boat would have the greatest opportunity to catch fish. To make the decision, the students will study information about the fish, about the waters, and determine what other factors may have an influence over their decision of which boat to send fishing.

Chemistry / Chemical Oceanography:

Lesson Title
Lesson Description
Chemistry 101 (FerrOCious Gulf) This Unit/Lesson plan is more of a set of ideas than specific lessons planned out in their entirety. The main idea is have students recognize what makes elements different from each other and to research the importance of each element in our daily lives.
Clean Up Your Act: Marine Oil Spills (COSIA) Several stations allow participants to observe how oil floats on water and experiment with different methods of cleanup. This activity provides hands-on experience to see how difficult it is to clean up an oil spill.
Heat Capacity: Can’t Take the Heat (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #11) In this hands-on introduction to heat capacity by the Bridge and COSEE-NOW, students explore the concept and its effects on our daily lives. Students use ocean observing system data to investigate why water acts as a thermal buffer and the practical applications this has.
How Did That Get There? Marine Pollution (COSIA) This activity uses a model of a watershed to show how oil spills and other forms of pollution from land can impact the ocean.
Ocean Acidification: Whats and Hows (Project PARKA) The students will be exposed to a range of data on ocean acidification. Through a class demonstration, lead by you, the students will collect data to investigate how ocean acidification works (increases in CO2 in the air correlate with decreases in pH). Students will then work through multiple published data visuals to explore how scientists understand that ocean acidification is occurring. The final component of the section exposes students to the impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms. Students will first observe the impacts of acidification on shell strength through a hands-on demonstration and then again look at multiple data visualizations of published results on ocean acidification impacts.
Rhythms of Our Coastal Waters (Ocean Gazing #30)
The Carbon Cycle Game (LSC Extended Lab) Students will explore the cycling of carbon within the atmosphere/ hydrosphere/ biosphere/ lithosphere and identify sources and sinks of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Students will then investigate the fate of carbon removed from the atmosphere and discuss the relationship and implications this natural cycling has for climate studies.

Climate Change / Ocean Acidification:

Lesson Title
Lesson Description
A Collaborative Investigation of Climate Change (Antarctica Melting) In this role playing activity, students take on the persona of different scientist and evaluate evidence of climate change in Antarctica. They then share their findings with the class and combine their findings with those of others to form a complete picture of how climate change is impacting Antarctica.
Carbon Dioxide & Krill: Impacts (Project PARKA) Students will investigate the impacts of temperature and pH on brine shrimp growth and survival through a control and two treatments, each with three replicates.
Coral Bleaching: A White Hot Problem (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #3) Assess coral bleaching using water temperature data from the NOAA National Data Buoy Center.
Heat Capacity: Can’t Take the Heat (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #11) In this hands-on introduction to heat capacity by the Bridge and COSEE-NOW, students explore the concept and its effects on our daily lives. Students use ocean observing system data to investigate why water acts as a thermal buffer and the practical applications this has.
Heat Islands (4-H Climate Change Investigations) This lesson focuses on the impact that human development has on the local/regional climate. Students use temperature sensors to collect data on how the color of a material impacts the amount of heat in an area and discuss how this relates to the formation of urban heat islands. An optional workbook for use with the Pasco Spark Units can be found here.
Melting Glaciers (Antarctica Melting) This experiment emulates the conditions in the past, present, and future of Antarctica. From this work, students can explore what will happen as temperatures continue to increase in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Microclimates (4-H Climate Change Investigations) In addition to changes in climate over large spatial scales (i.e. global climate zones), differences in climatological variables also exist within our local regions. In this activity, students will uncover the microclimates in their schoolyard by uncovering small scale temperature variations. An optional workbook for use with the Pasco Spark Units can be found here.
Ocean Acidification This compendium lesson plan to the Ocean Acidifcation audio slideshow leads students through an investigation of the effects of carbon dioxide in seawater and discusses the potential effects of a changing environment on marine organisms.
Ocean Acidification: Whats and Hows (Project PARKA) The students will be exposed to a range of data on ocean acidification. Through a class demonstration, lead by you, the students will collect data to investigate how ocean acidification works (increases in CO2 in the air correlate with decreases in pH). Students will then work through multiple published data visuals to explore how scientists understand that ocean acidification is occurring. The final component of the section exposes students to the impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms. Students will first observe the impacts of acidification on shell strength through a hands-on demonstration and then again look at multiple data visualizations of published results on ocean acidification impacts.
Satellites and Storms: Using Ocean Observing to Investigate Coastal Storms (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) Students will use weather maps and ocean observing system data to explore hurricanes and nor’easters and their effects on vital habitats, our beaches, and our communities.
Sea Level Trends (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) This lesson is designed as an introductory activity exploring one facet of global climate change — sea level change. Students will access real scientific data to investigate and compare long-term changes in sea level from different coastal locations around the United States.
Shrinking Island: HiOOS Sea Level Rise Activity (Exhibit Design) Students explore how sea level rise is caused by ice on land melting and not from sea ice melting and that sea level rise causes land to be lost or flooded (and that steeper land does not flood as easily as flat plains). Students create a map of land area as sea level changes.
The Antarctic Food Web (Antarctica Melting) This activity allows students to apply their understanding of how food webs and energy transfer work by applying it to changes in the Antarctic food web due to ice loss.
The Heat Is On: Global Climate Change Revisited (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) Scientific evidence has revealed that a warming trend occurred in the last century – on that there is consensus. The debate is about whether or not this is a natural cycle and how to respond to the evidence.
Weather and Climate (4-H Climate Change Investigations) In this activity, kids have an opportunity to take real-time measurements of the weather (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure) and compare those values with the local climatology (using either graphs from city-data or data from weather underground). The goal is for kids to understand that weather data is instantaneous and highly variable while climate is a long-term average. The accompanying handout and an optional workbook for use with the Pasco Spark Units are also available.

Earth Sciences / Geological Oceanography:

Lesson Title
Lesson Description
Build a Watershed (COOL Classroom) Students learn about watersheds by simulating the flow of water in a watershed and identifying the boundaries of the watersheds formed.
Diatom Ooze: Ooze Clues (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #) Just as ocean beaches display a variety of sand types, the ocean floor has different sediment types. Sediments can come from land, living organisms, chemical reactions in the water column, and even outer space. When skeletal remains of microscopic organisms make up more than 30% of the sediment, it is called “ooze.” In this activity, students will plot the distribution of various oozes using information from sediment maps.
Drilling into Science Activity!: Hands-on Natural Resource Lab (Oil Spill Resources) In this lesson students will learn about the generation and exploration of petroleum by becoming geologists and oil prospectors for the day. Students will use science and math to work through a set of data to drill for and hopefully discover oil. Complimentary PowerPoint is included here.
Earth Science Project: Create an Ocean Weather Forecast (COOL Classroom) In this project, students study data from satellite temperature images and underwater sensors (CTDs) to look for evidence of an upwelling off the coast of New Jersey. Based on their new knowledge, they use real-time ocean data from the COOL Classroom to create their own “Ocean Weather Forecast” for the local newspaper.
How Did That Get There? Marine Pollution (COSIA)

This activity uses a model of a watershed to show how oil spills and other forms of pollution from land can impact the ocean.

Oil in Our Lives Activity: Decreasing Oil Dependency (Oil Spill Resources) Students will select a topic area (decrease amount of plastic used, personal transportation, efficient use of heating and electricity, etc.) to create a poster/brochure/web page describing how it will assist in decreasing personal oil consumption. The complementary PowerPoint is included here.
Plate Tectonics: Recycling the Seafloor (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #1) Students estimate the location of plate boundaries using the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration’s Acoustic Monitoring Program’s underwater
earthquake data.

Math / Technology:

Lesson Title
Lesson Description
A Satellite’s Centrifugal Force (Ross Sea Connection) The purpose of the activity is for students to investigate satellite motion.
Exploring the Ocean with Robots (Ocean Gazing #13 & Antarctica Melting) In this activity, participants investigate how underwater robots rely on principles like density and buoyancy to explore the ocean.
How Satellites See (Ross Sea Connection) The project compare and contrast three NASA satellites: The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE), The Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The lesson includes access to data and images from these three NASA astronomy satellites, contrasting the way the sky appears in three very different electromagnetic wavelengths or colors of light.
Plankton Math (FerrOCious Gulf) Try your hand at figuring out how many of a certain species of plankton we found in cubic meters of water from our tow the other night!

Ocean Science Methods:

Lesson Title
Lesson Description
Activities for Environmental Clean-Up (Oil Spill Resources) There are a number of activities related to the oil spill response. The first set of activities listed here compliment the Oil in the Water PowerPoint and the second set relate to the Wildlife Clean Up PowerPoint.
Adroitly adrift:Currents & Drifters and Construction of a Drifter (Ocean Gazing #28)
Are you an ocean critter? (RTD Lessons) Using real time data, students will attempt to predict if the weather and sea surface temperature will be suitable for a “good” beach day.
Careers in Oceanography (COOL Classroom) Students explore the COOL cards to learn about the real people who make the Coastal and Ocean Observing Laboratory (COOL) room work (30 minute activity).
Discrete Versus Continuous Data Activity (COOL Classroom) Students learn about data collection and the difference between discrete (snapshots), continuous, and real-time data. (15-25 minute interactive activity).
Exploring the Ocean with Robots (Ocean Gazing #13 & Antarctica Melting) In this activity, participants investigate how underwater robots rely on principles like density and buoyancy to explore the ocean.
Drifter Tsunami In this lab students will gain experience manipulating the drifter data in Google Earth.
Hypoxic “Battleship” (FerrOCious Gulf) Students will compete against a partner to seek out a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, that has lost radio contact, using current research and coordinates, “Battleship” style.  They will become familiar with the locations of hypoxic waters as well as using coordinates to locate items on a map.
Introductory Lessons to Ocean Observing (Ocean Gazing #0) a) Coastal Observing Systems, b) Discrete vs. Continuous Data, c) Ocean Observation, d) Oceanography through Time, and e) Ocean Observing Systems Primer.
National Marine Sanctuaries Shipwrecks (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #20) Explore shipwrecks from four National Marine Sanctuaries on the West Coast of the U.S.
Oceanography Through Time Activity (COOL Classroom) Students use an interactive time line to learn about the history of the exploration and study of the ocean. (30-45 minute interactive activity).
To Float or Not To Float (COSIA) This hands on activity allows the participants to look at how ships float differently in ocean water (salty) and harbor water (brackish, or less salty due to fresh water from rivers), and how cargo loading and the effects of wind and currents can affect their buoyancy.
Using COOL Technology (Activity, Part 2, COOL Classroom) Students use the COOL tutorials to learn about the instrumentation used to collect data in the Coastal and Ocean Observing Laboratory (COOL) room (30-45 minute activity).
What’s a Water Column Profile (Ocean Gazing #23)
What is the COOL room anyway? (Activity, Part 1, COOL Classroom) Students explore how and why oceanographers collect data at the Coastal and Ocean Observing Laboratory (COOL) room. (30-45 minute interactive activity).
Where to Go Fishing Using several sources of real time data, students must determine which boat would have the greatest opportunity to catch fish. To make the decision, the students will study information about the fish, about the waters, and determine what other factors may have an influence over their decision of which boat to send fishing.

Physics / Physical Oceanography:

Lesson Title
Lesson Description
A Gust of Energy: Sea Breeze and Conditions at Sea (Ocean Gazing #12)
Current Events (Ocean Gazing #32)
Don’t get TIDE UP (COSIA) The goal of this activity is to use real-time data and tidal charts to familiarize the public with what tides are and how they are monitored and recorded. The activity involves a demonstration and asks the participants to determine when the best time would be for a cargo ship to pass under a bridge.
Exploring the Ocean with Robots (Ocean Gazing #13 & Antarctica Melting) In this activity, participants investigate how underwater robots rely on principles like density and buoyancy to explore the ocean.
Hudson River Plume (COOL Classroom) This Human Impact Adventure explores the Hudson River Plume; including what it is, how it is created, and what impact it has on the marine environment. Through this unit students learn about watershed dynamics, density, satellite sea surface temperature data, human impacts on the watershed (non-point source pollution), and eutrophication.
Move it or Lose it (LSC Extended Lab) In this active game, students role play as migrating fish. They must interpret sea surface temperature (SST) data to stay in waters suitable for their species of fish, as well as collect enough food to survive the year.
Ocean Currents of the World (Ross Sea Connection) Students review the major ocean currents of the world ocean. There is nothing like a good rubber “ducky” to measure the ocean currents, and in 1990, a container ship carrying rubber NIKES (yes, the sneaker) inadvertently performed a most interesting study in ocean currents. The students learn more about this at the close of the lab.
Physics Project: Adrift (Middle School, COOL Classroom) The students explore how ocean scientists (and the Coast Guard) “see” how the currents on the surface of the ocean are moving. In this project, they learn how to read vector images of real-time CODAR (Costal Ocean Radar) data. Then they use their knowledge to help locate a lost ship off the New Jersey coast!
Physics Project: Follow that Bloom (High School, COOL Classroom) Students explore how the movement of plankton, that appears to be drifting randomly around in the ocean, is monitored. In this project, they learn how to read vector images of real-time CODAR (Coastal Radar) data. Then they use their knowledge to predict the movement of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of New Jersey.
Sea 3-D (LSC Extended Lab) Students will analyze cross sections of an area of the ocean and explore how water properties can change with depth. Students will be given depth profiles off of New Jersey showing seasonal variations and be asked to explain the observed differences based on their current understanding, and then come up with ways to decide if they are correct or not. Students will learn how scientists can use robots to measure these physical properties of the ocean and view data from recent noteworthy research efforts.
Seasonality in the Ocean (LSC Extended Lab) Students will be introduced to sea surface color (chlorophyll) and sea surface temperature (SST) data, which they will analyze to compare and contrast differences between seasons on land and seasons in the ocean.
Ships, Oceans, and Satellites (Ocean Gazing #26 & LSC Extended Lab) Students will learn that the physical parameters of the ocean change with location and time. They will use a model of the surface ocean to collect simulated temperature data. They will observe that the temperatures vary over the surface of the model. They will also be introduced to concepts of data resolution. Lesson is ended with students interpreting temperature and chlorophyll data from different seasons (temporal variation), and explaining the patterns they observe.
The Ocean as Classroom: Satellites & Storms and Ocean Science Careers (Ocean Gazing #9)
The Prince’s Predictions(1): Satellites & Storms and Message in a Bottle (Ocean Gazing #17)
The Prince’s Predictions(2): Adrift (Ocean Gazing #18)
To Float or Not To Float (COSIA) This hands on activity allows the participants to look at how ships float differently in ocean water (salty) and harbor water (brackish, or less salty due to fresh water from rivers), and how cargo loading and the effects of wind and currents can affect their buoyancy.
Vectors of the Sea (FerrOCious Gulf) This activity is designed for students to practice the addition and sutraction of vectors. You can print the second slide as the worksheet and have students work out the problems. Explain to them that there are other forces acting on the boats (for example: current), and one could add current as a third vector (and add all three together), but for this activity we are only considering two of the forces acting on the ships.
Water Density and the Ocean (LSC Extended Lab) Students develop a hypothesis for an experiment comparing water samples they create with different temperatures and salinities (which they measure and record) and observe the results of combining different samples in a specialized tank. They then revise their theories and are asked to support new ideas with evidence from their calculations of the density of their water samples.
Water Density Lab (FerrOCious Gulf) This lab consists of three parts to teach students: as temperature of a substance increases, so does volume, that colder water is more dense and therefore sinks relative to warmer water, and that saltier water is more dense than less salty water.
Waves: An Alternative Energy Source (Bridge/Ocean Gazing #14) Our lives have become so dependent on non-renewable energy sources that it is hard to imagine life without them. But what about renewable or sustainable energy sources? Explore the possibility of waves as an alternative energy source and use data from US ocean observing system (OOS) buoys to determine the feasibility.

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