NSTA 2009

Welcome to the NSTA COSEE short course home page.

Here you will find information about the activities and resources we discussed in the workshop. We are interested in your feedback. Please post a comment and let us know what you used, how you used it, and who you used the materials with. We hope to create a learning community around this important topic.

The oceans, they are a’ changin’….. how will they change you?

National Science Teachers Association National Conference, New Orleans, LA
Friday, March 20, 2009

Overview and Objectives

Examining the role of the ocean in climate change offers a unique and compelling approach to integrate marine science, technology, mathematics and engineering with history and culture into classroom educational materials.

Participants will interact with experts from NASA, NOAA, and other researchers to gain knowledge of methods employed to study climate change, and use materials designed for grades 6 – 12, developed by the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Network. Materials include links to real time data, relevant scientific resources, lesson plans, and connections to a nation-wide network of scientists and educators focused on improving ocean literacy.

Background Materials

The ocean science community has focused on developing content guidelines for what an “ocean literate” person should know about the ocean. Our goal is to increase knowledge and awareness about how the ocean impacts you and your impact on it! We encourage educators to review these documents to help you think about ocean science topics in your curriculum. 

  • Climate Literacy Brochure – The Essential Principles of Climate Science reflects a broad and current effort to define climate literacy (Electronic brochures in various formats).
  • Ocean Literacy Brochure – Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean. The Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts brochure defines ocean literacy.



  • Hudson River Plume Adventure (from 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.
  • Building a Watershed (from Cool Classroom)
    Watershed boundaries are difficult for students to comprehend until they see them during this activity. In this hands on activity student will simulate the flow of water in a watershed and identify the boundaries of watersheds formed.
  • Eutrophication Interactive
  • Eutrophication Kit (from COSEE MA): Teacher’s Guide, Student Workbook
  • Nitrogen Cycle Lesson (from Oceans Connecting A Nation)
    Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous are considered very important to the environment because they are chemical building blocks for all living organisms. These elements flow or recycle through the biosphere, atmosphere and geosphere through a global process known as Biogeochemical cycling. The carbon cycle may be the most familiar biogeochemical cycle. It is estimated that through respiration, plants in the ocean remove 25 to 50 billion metric tons of carbon from the air every year. Using this carbon to live and grow, plants serve another important role as the base level of the food web. How does Nitrogen cycle in?
  • Sources A Nitrogen (from Oceans Connecting A Nation)
    In addition to the natural sources of nitrogen, there are many human created sources of nitrogen. As the human population increases, we are increasingly impacting the environment, find out how in this lesson.


  • The No Seafood Grill 2050  (a Shifting Baselines Video)
    What if the oceans change? What would a seafood dinner look like? Use this short and humorous piece from Shifting Baselines to illustrate an ocean out of balance and overfished.
  • Jellies as Drifters
    Using real time data, students will predict how temperature and currents will affect the distribution of jellies.
  • Hatch to Catch – Lobster Larval Recruitment
    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?
  • Are you an ocean critter?
    Using real time data, students will attempt to predict if the weather and sea surface temperature will be suitable for a “good” beach day.
  • Fishing (from Gulf Stream Voyage)
    Students use real time sea surface, ocean buoy data, and information about yellow fin tuna to predict where the fish may be in the ocean.
  • Plankton (from Gulf Stream 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.
  • Altered Oceans (Los Angeles Times series)
    A five part online series of articles focused on warning signs and indicators of an altered ocean.


Supplemental Lessons

Understanding Run-off (from Oceans Connecting A Nation)
Water runoff occurs when water, snow melt or irrigation runs over land and seeps into the ground or flows to local body of water. In the process of water runoff, water picks up pollutants, nutrients, and sediments and carries them to the river, lakes, oceans and ground waters. Understanding water runoff is essential to understanding a healthy environment as well as water pollution.

C-MORE Microbial Education Kits
The Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) was established in August 2006 as a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Science and Technology Center. The center is designed to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the biological and ecological diversity of marine micro-organisms.

NOAA – International Polar Year Climate Lesson Plans
NOAA has assembled a series of lesson plans relating to climate change on one web page. All lessons are available on this web page in PDF format.

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